Doping among elite athletes may have reached a new level…

As laid out by Discovery News, some athletes are trying to “turn on molecular switches inside the body’s own DNA to produce more oxygen-carrying blood or creating bigger muscle cells.” In essence, people are trying to make the genes that code for oxygen carrying capacity or muscle cell development work harder and faster. Scientists are in the process of developing a test for this sort of thing that may be in use before the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

One of the more interesting aspects of this story is the potential side effects. For example, mice that were genetically modified to produce more red blood cells (whose major job is to carry oxygen throughout the body) actually died of stroke because too many cells were being created. In another example, experts suspect that modifying the genes that code for muscle cell creation may only work on part of the body–you could have a super buff right arm and a normal left arm, for instance.

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