NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Qiagen said today that it is partnering with researchers from the University of Pennsylvania to develop molecular tests to detect gene doping in athletes.
In the project, supported by the World Anti-Doping Agency and Qiagen, the U Penn team plans to climb Mount Everest with live mice. The researchers plan to use tissue and blood samples from these mice to identify a molecular signature for altitude-induced hypoxia, or oxygen deficiency.
Hypoxia stimulates the creation of erythropoietin, which promotes the production of red blood cells and is a commonly abused doping agent. While current tests fo doping can detect artificial EPO, it is very difficult to determine whether athletes have used genetic manipulation to produce more natural EPO, Qiagen said.
The company said that the scientists plan to develop new tests for gene doping by comparing the “natural” molecular signatures obtained from the mice exposed to high altitudes with “induced” signatures created by gene doping.
"From a research point of view, a major challenge of this endeavor will be the extraction of samples from the mice under these extreme conditions," said Gabriel Willmann, an investigator on the project, in a statement. He said that the team will use Qiagen’s tools to collect, process, and analyze the samples.