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Scientists first developed gene therapy techniques in the 1990s, exploring ways to treat disease by modifying malfunctioning cells. In 1997, a team at John Hopkins University edited genesto create what the media called “Schwarzenegger mice,” which had twice the normal amount of muscle.

The researchers’ goal was to develop treatments for muscle-wasting conditions, including old age, but the same technique could theoretically be used to add muscle bulk to athletes, a concept called gene doping. Doctors could, theoretically, inject cells with enhanced genes into the relevant body part or use a benign virus to deliver modified cells. These superhumans could be the elite athletes of the future — athletes who perform faster, higher, and stronger than any “natural” human ever could.

There’s no evidence that anyone has tried this procedure — which has never been tested — but in 2003, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) proactively banned gene doping. The ban includes any use of polymers of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) or analogues, gene-editing agents designed to alter genome sequences or gene expressions, and normal or genetically modified cells. Like other drugs and... see more