Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists fear new drugs and genetic doping

21.07.2004


Can doping athletes be stopped? With the Athens Olympics about to open, scientists are increasingly concerned that sophisticated techniques for evading drug tests will make it difficult for testers to catch athletes using steroids and other drugs, especially at future athletic competitions when genetic-based enhancements are expected to be prevalent.



In the August/September issue of Update, the magazine of the New York Academy of Sciences, writer Diane Kightlinger documents how advances in drug production and genetic engineering are benefiting athletes interested in evading tests – and the ways in which scientists are figuring out ways to create ever-better detection techniques.

Today, the pharmacopoeia of substances banned at the Olympic Games includes not only stimulants, but narcotics, anabolic steroids, beta-2 agonists, and peptide hormones such as EPO (erythropoietin) and hGH (human growth hormone). Last year, the drug company Balco was charged with distributing designer drugs such as the steroid THG (tetrahydrogestrinone).


Putting Drugs to the Test

In recent years, researchers focused on catching dopers have won important battles by developing tests for THG and EPO and using them to catch abusers. In addition, the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in November 1999 may soon result in near-universal standards for doping control across sports federations and countries.

However, current methods of Olympic testing still cannot catch athletes who use steroids to bulk up during training but stop months before the Games, or those who use EPO more than a few days before competition.

To combat these tricks to avoid detection, new techniques are being developed to identify illegal substances and methods. WADA has also implemented "year-round, no-notice testing," says Casey Wade, WADA education director. "Give athletes more than 24-hour notice and they can provide a sample, but it’s going to be free from detection."

The International Olympic Committee requires most Olympic athletes to make themselves available for doping tests anytime and anywhere for one year prior to the opening of the Games. This year, WADA plans some 2,400 tests, a process of selection that takes into account the substances that an athlete might use and the time it would take a body to clear the drug from an athlete’s system before the Athens games start.

Lab testing faces many challenges. The U.S. Olympic testing lab facility at the University of California at Los Angeles employs an array of mass spectrometry techniques designed to analyze testing samples. The technique identifies steroids by breaking up molecules and sorting the resulting fragments by mass. However, it may miss drugs like THG because THG may have been modified in such a way as to make detecting those characteristic fragments difficult to spot on conventional tests.

Don Catlin, the lab’s director, says that the detection of EPO and hGH abuse is particularly difficult because they appear only in minute quantities in body fluids. EPO increases oxygen delivery to the muscles, and hGH enhances muscle growth. When extracting EPO from urine, Catlin says, "the less there is of it, the more difficult it is to extract with good recovery."

He adds, "Most of the drugs we’re working with have molecular weights of 300. EPO has a weight of 30,000 to 35,000, which is too large for our mass spectrometers to work on."

Doping Through Genetic Engineering

Yet another challenge to testers comes from genetic approaches to enhancing performance. According to Theodore Friedmann, director of the Program in Human Gene Therapy at the University of California at San Diego, the promise of gene transfer methods to build skeletal muscle and increase red blood cell production means that anyone can dope their performance via genetic engineering.

"The genes are all available and you make them," he said. "All it takes is three or four well-trained postdocs and a million or two dollars."

In response, the WADA has added methods such as blood and gene doping to its list of prohibited substances. New tests are being developed to detect "gene" tampering, and blood tests, rather than urine tests, is already on its way to becoming the standard for catching dopers.

In spite of these challenges, researchers are confident that they will able to face these increasingly sophisticated substances and delivery methods. Scientists are making strides by developing effective tests, streamlining existing procedures, and working with agencies such as the WADA to ensure that 21st century technology benefits, rather than compromises, the spirit of the ancient Olympics.

Jennifer Tang | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nyas.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch
22.05.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Flow of cerebrospinal fluid regulates neural stem cell division
22.05.2018 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

PR of MCC: Carbon removal from atmosphere unavoidable for 1.5 degree target

22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences

Achema 2018: New camera system monitors distillation and helps save energy

22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>