Athletics, genetic enhancement and ethics

r IGF-I, which promotes gains in muscle strength and mass.

Genetically enhanced rats that worked their way through ladder-climbing, weight-bearing exercise regimens bulked up more and retained more of their muscles after they stopped working out than exercise-only and genetic-enhancement-only rats.

While the leap from laboratory animals to human beings is still hypothetical, the speakers in this AAAS symposium predict human trials of gene enhancement for muscle diseases in the near future.

The participants will discuss the scientific concerns associated with the expected "off-label" application of genetic tools in athletic settings outside the reach of review and regulatory bodies. Pressure for effective and less detectable methods for altering athletic physiology from groups within the lucrative, high-profile world of competitive athletics could spur such off-label uses of genetic enhancements.

Thomas Murray, bioethicist and president of The Hastings Center, will describe interdisciplinary research focused on ethical issues relating to endurance enhancements. Can banned endurance enhancement practices, such as taking erythropoietin (EPO), the naturally occurring hormone that stimulates the body to produce more red blood cells, be distinguished from allowed practices such as "train-low-and-rest-high" regimens? What are the ethical reasons from prohibiting some endurance enhancement techniques and allowing others? How should distinctions be drawn? Is the ethics of competitive athletics connected to the meaning we attach to sports? If so, do meanings change?

Donald Catlin, the head of the lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, that recently identified the previously unknown designer steroid, THG, will outline current pharmacological doping methods and banned substances. Catlin will describe how steroids get on the banned list, how THG is unique, and what the lab went through to identify the new steroid.


Contact: Monica Amarelo
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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