It sounds like something from a futuristic sci-fi movie, but according to new research, super-athletes could be roaming the earth in less than 20 years thanks to gene editing.
To become an Olympic champion, athletes have always needed dedication and perseverance, as well as natural ability.
In the past, athletes would spend hours training in the gym and would make sure they ate all the right foods. However, neither they, nor anybody else, felt the need to analyze their genes to test whether they were likely to succeed in their chosen sport. This may well be about to change. Our understanding of the connection between our genes and sporting performance is growing and this understanding may soon radically transform the way we select and train the athletes of the future.
The results of a study conducted by a group of scientists from the Arizona State University under the guidance of Associate Professor Diana Bowman proved that in many sports genes are just as important as hard work. The “right” genes can, for example, affect our cardiovascular capacity — the heart’s ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles — and they can also affect the muscle's ability to turn oxygen into the fuel needed for muscles to contract quickly and powerfully. Any athlete with such genes has an advantage over people who do not have them, because they allow them to train longer and more intensively, recover from exercises faster and more efficiently generate energy. Scientists have identified a variant of a gene called ACTN3, which is associated with the presence of muscle protein, found only in certain muscle fibers. In fact, this is an “energy gene”, which allows sprinters to react quickly and start quickly. Any 100-meter sprinter with such a gene has a clear advantage over an athlete who does not have one. In fact, according to experts, this gene is necessary to win gold in a sprint tournament.
Diana Bowman argues that “complex gene editing can allow us to select the ideal genetic traits for the ideal future sports stars. Precise gene editing brings us closer to the reality of creating separate genetic traits in human embryos. Given the high stakes in professional sports and the long history of state-sponsored doping programs, it is likely that some countries will soon start experimenting with such gene editing methods as CRISPR to create super athletes. ”
The use of such technologies raises complex ethical and legal issues that may have significant and controversial implications for the sports industry. Nevertheless, the use of these technologies is inevitable, including in sports, since the geopolitical nature of sports and the prestige associated with winning at the highest levels makes all people involved in this process striving for this inevitability.
“Our analysis will map but the future landscape and develop recommendations on pathways forward to ensure the responsible and beneficial use of gene editing in global sports over the next 20 years,” – said Professor Bowman.
So what are the conclusions? Will the best athletes be selected at a young age because of their natural genes, or will it be a common practice to modify an athlete's genes? Both scenarios are worrying. In the first case, the sport ceases to be reduced to personal achievements and mental endurance and becomes games for supermen. If gene change becomes a recognized part of high-profile sports, pressure on athletes and sports organizations to change people's genes will be unprecedented.
We’ll see. Time is just around the corner.
Based on "10 Daily"