Fitness By Genetic Therapy

“When you exercise, your muscles change fiber type specificity, switching from type II fibers to type I fibers,” says Dr. Rhonda Bassel-Duby, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern. “When we expressed this protein [PGC-1Q] in the mouse model, we found that the muscle switched from a type II muscle to a type I muscle. The presence of this protein alone switched the muscle type.” Type II muscle is easily fatigued; exercise converts Type II to fatigue-resistant Type I. Already demonstrated in mice, gene therapy with PGC-1Q has the potential in humans to produce genuine fitness without exercise. (Original research in Nature, 15 August 2002, reported in ScienceDaily.)
Comment: Athletic drug users have taken legitimate medical advances – synthetic human growth hormone, synthetic EPO – and subverted them for illigitimate uses. Producing fitness in immobilized heart attack or accident victims using gene threrapy is a legitimate and worthy medical goal. There can never be a doubt this good hugely outweighs the potential for misuse, but for the endurance athletic community this kind of gene therapy (and its inevitable wilder variants) means in twenty years the current drug situation in sport will seem almost painfully simple. (12/30)

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