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New Gene Doping Test for Athletes

At the upcoming Olympic games, the World Anti-Doping Agency will be testing athletes for gene doping, Wired reports.

Wired adds that it's unlikely that any athlete has turned to gene doping just yet, but that the agency is trying to stay ahead of the curve, rather than "playing catch up," as regulators often do. Some 10 years passed, it notes, between the arrival of synthetic erythropoietin on the market and the development of a test to see whether athletes were using it to improve their performances.

This new test, developed by Anna Baoutina at Australia's National Measurement Institute, looks for signs of EPO gene doping. In particular, it tests for the presence of viruses typically used to deliver gene therapies and examines athletes' EPO genes, looking for ones that suspiciously lack introns.

But EPO isn't the only gene that's attractive for gene doping, and that, Wired says, is why starting to test now is important. It notes that WADA recently re-tested samples from prior Olympics with new approaches to uncover additional instances of doping and that various testing labs have been de- and then re-certified.

"And that's all looking at traditional doping methods. Adding in gene therapy will only make it tougher," Wired adds.