Gene therapy, genetic doping and sport: fundaments and implications for the future

Gene therapy, genetic doping and sport : fundaments
and implications for the future / Guilherme Giannini Artioli, Rosário Dominguez Crespo Hirata, Antonio Herbert Lancha Junior

  • Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte 13 (2007) 5; p. 349-354
  • DOI: 10.1590/s1517-86922007000500013


Optimal performance has been constantly sought for in high level competitive sport. To achieve this goal, many athletes use illicit drugs and methods, which could have important side effects. Gene therapy is a very recent therapeutic modality, whose results have shown to be efficient in the treatment of severe diseases so far. The basis of gene therapy is a vectorial transfer of genetic materials to target-cells in order to supply the products of an abnormal gene in the patient's genome. Recently, the potential for misuse of gene therapy among athletes has called attention of scientists and sports regulating organs. The transfer of genes that could improve athletic performance, a method prohibited by COI in 2003, was named gene doping. The most important candidate genes for gene doping are the ones which codify for the following proteins: GH, IGH-1, miostatin blockers, VEGF, endorfins and enkefalins, eritropoetin, leptin and PPAR-delta. Once inserted in the athlete genome, the gene would be expressed and produce an endogenous product capable of improving performance. Thus, current doping detection methods are not sensitive enough to detect gene doping, which in turn could stimulate its use among athletes. Moreover, gene therapy still presents known application problems, such as inflammatory response and lack of control of gene activation. It is probable that such problems would be even more important in healthy individuals, since there would be excessive product of the transferred gene. Moreover, other unknown risks specific for each gene are present. Therefore, debate on gene doping should be carried on in the academic as well as sports field, in order to study prevention, control and detection measures of gene doping, avoiding hence, future problems regarding the misuse of this promising therapy.

Original document


1 December 2021
Artioli, Guilherme Giannini
Crespo Hirata, Rosário Dominguez
Lancha Junior, Antonio Herbert
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Universidade de São Paulo (USP) - University of São Paulo
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M3. Gene And Cell Doping
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Gene Therapy
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Scientific article
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8 December 2021
Date of last modification
4 January 2022
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