Bio-engineering and the London Marathon

With the London marathon taking place this weekend, this Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph ran a full-page article entitled “What makes the perfect marathon runner?”

 

I read the science-related articles press with interest, as they generally feature subjects which (they hope) appeal to the wider public. In this quite extensive article, the journalist Sanjida O´Connell manages to cover several topics guaranteed to interest the reader:

 

1)     The limits of the human body: are we running as fast as we can? (answer: nearly)

2)     Is it all in our genes or can we all run that fast if we just train a bit harder? (answer: relax – its mainly in the genes) and

3)     Could we bioengineer a perfect marathon runner? The surprising answer here is yes, probably! But it would not be a good idea.

 

The perfect marathon runner really could (in theory at least) be bio-engineered through a technique called gene doping. This technique involves injecting into the body a harmless virus that carries a performance-enhancing gene. This new gene would override genes in the appropriate cells, leading to enhanced athletic performance. 

 

This technique is already being used to develop treatments for conditions such as muscular dystrophy, and whereas few people would question whether this was a Good Thing, many may take issue with gene doping to win races. There are many serious health-related risks, as well as the obvious questions about whether this is an acceptable way to enhance sporting prowess. (Probably not, I would have thought).

 

But this story is a great example of how to connect every day stories with science. Read the article at: –

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/athletics/london-marathon/5192764/London-Marathon-2009-what-makes-the-perfect-marathon-runner.html

 


More power and influence for scientists?

Two stories caught my eye this week, leading me to hope that scientists are being propelled closer to the centres of power…

Easter at the White House

For the first time in 30 years the White House invited the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) to host a scientific activity as part of the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Läs mer