Friday, April 26, 2024

CRISPRs, Gene Doping and Sports

 In the world of sporting events, it is a fact that the use of performance enhancing drugs, while they display the true extent of our performance capabilities, creates a very unfair playing field for athletes who do everything naturally. Regardless, some countries force their athletes to use performance enhancing drugs, with some being specifically engineered for coming up with negative drug tests. With that said, what the future holds for such a controversial topic is up in the air, and will stay there as the ability to influence genomic sequences becomes a reality. At the moment, researchers are looking into enhancing our ability to produce proteins such as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), erythropoietin (EPO), insulin (INS) and growth hormone (HGH), for clinical applications (not athletics). While there haven’t been any athletes caught using gene therapy to improve their performance, researchers have developed the technology to detect whether or not an athlete has undergone gene therapy. They accomplished this by creating a test that can detect the presence of the Cas9 proteins used for the insertion of the altered DNA sequence. At the same time, when the technology is perfected and can be done with relative ease, and all athletes are capable of performing these therapies, would it be considered a level playing field at the highest levels? Or, perhaps a better alternative to this would be to create competitions separate from those competing naturally in order to display the full potential of athletic performance, by choice of the athletes of course. 

In my opinion, while I believe that the integrity of all sports should be preserved as well as possible, an enhanced athletes competition for specific sports would be fascinating to watch. For those who are on social media, and are exposed to content involving sporting events, you may see certain individuals who are displaying incredible feats of strength or power, all while being fully transparent about their drug usage. Including gene editing would certainly make quite a sight. At the same time, I also foresee some negative outcomes of the increased ease of access and popularity of gene therapy, like the prospect of countries using the treatment to enhance the capabilities of their soldiers. 

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