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    GMA - Genetically Modified Athletes

    Tuesday, 19 August
    8.30pm SBS

    GENETICALLY MODIFIED ATHLETES investigates biology’s latest discoveries, and the scope they offer in the area of sport in CUTTING EDGE, screening on SBS Television, Tuesday, 19 August at 8.30pm.

    Cell replacement and gene therapy are opening up hitherto-unimagined vistas for medicine. Following recent discoveries about the way growth factors affect stem cells, some scientists believe that it may one day be possible to repair damaged tissue. But scientific discoveries are always open to abuse, and the world of sport, always on the look out for miracle products and techniques that can alter the human body to enhance athletes’ performance, has its beady eye on gene therapy.

    “These days, all trainers use technologies and rely on physiological and biological data. Human performance relies on science,” says Gerard Oine, Professor of Biotechnology and haematologist.

    In research conducted during the Sydney Olympics, a survey revealed that some
    athletes had ingested up to 38 medicines or substances. One doctor described these athletes as ‘walking pharmacies’. As early as 1992, scientists testing Olympic athletes noted abnormal haemoglobin levels, due to erythropoietin (EPO) or transfusion. EPO increases the number of red blood cells and consequently increases the amount of oxygen that can be transported to muscles and tissue.

    Human muscles are transferred into the body of a mouse so that the effects of exercise can be monitored by scientists. The map of the human genome has shown that the differences between species is not as great as once thought, allowing pathologies to be safely studied in animals. To repair joint injuries, cells from the patient are grown outside the body and reinjected. Using stem cells, in the future all areas of the body will be repairable.

    But if this technology can be used to create hyper-strengthened tendons and muscles, it will be up to the IOC to draw the line on the ethical boundaries of such procedures. It will be possible to construct athletes with strengthened and modified bodies for their specific sports.

    IGF – 1, a synthetic muscle gene to increase size, can be placed into a muscle via a deactivated virus. In mice, a simple injection of IGF - 1 increased muscle mass by 30 % - with no diminishing strength or size with the onset of age.

    GENETICALLY MODIFIED ATHLETES is an alarming look at various emerging biotechnologies, including gene transfer techniques, that will one day produce a new breed of sporting champions.

    Seems interesting to watch GTG has the patents and seems that they will benefit from such discoveries
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