The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association presented a check for $300,000 to the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center's Equine Pharmacology Laboratory Friday, allowing researchers there to embark on “revolutionary research to detect gene doping,” according to officials at UPenn.
Gene doping has been a hot topic among integrity watchdogs in the human athletics world for nearly two decades. An offshoot of gene therapy, which inserts DNA into someone's genetic makeup to make up for a damaged or missing section, gene doping is aimed at enhancing athletic capacity. It's thought gene doping could prompt a human or animal body to produce more muscle mass, burn more fat, or increase speed over what the body could do on its own.
The World Anti-Doping Agency added gene doping to its list of banned procedures in 2003 and has funded research projects examining its potential impacts since then.
According to New Bolton Center's media relations office, the PHBA donation “will provide funding for Penn Vet's multi-tiered, multi-year project to enhance the detection of gene doping in equine athletes, including race horses.
“Elements of the project include continued research into potential protein and RNA-based biomarkers that have been identified as showing promise for detecting gene doping. The project will also include continued expansion of a BioBank that will be utilized to evaluate baseline levels of these blood-based bio-markers in active and injured race horses, as well as physiological changes in their musculoskeletal structure using New Bolton Center's robotics controlled imaging system.”
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