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Fears Raised Over the Prospect of Genetically Modified Athletes

A study showing that gene therapy can make muscles respond much better to exercise has raised the prospect of genetically modified athletes. Researchers were able to modify rat genes in such a way that, combined with exercise, the rats' muscles become 15 percent to 30 percent stronger than would be expected with exercise alone. The research is aimed at developing treatments for diseases such as muscular dystrophy, but the prospect of genetically modified athletes is already alarming drug testers. Unlike many of the drugs used to enhance performance, genetic modifications would leave no trace in the blood or urine. A muscle biopsy would be the only means of detection. There is also concern that athletes will put their health at risk by using untested genetic technologies, as it is possible that genetic modifications could make muscles so strong that they could damage the recipient's bones.

New Scientist February 17, 2004

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