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Stem cell doping available?
09-27-2011, 04:31 AM
Post: #1
Stem cell doping available?
I read that this might be available since 2008:

Gene doping at the Olympics: be afraid, be very afraid
On the eve of the Olympics, the Times Online ran a story looking at disconcerting trends developing in the doping world. Numero Uno on this list was the offer of 'gene doping' (actually stem cell doping) by a Chinese physician at a Chinese hospital. (sports stem cell doping may be the second best use of the technology)

Startling new evidence of a burgeoning underground doping culture in China emerged last night as a hospital doctor said that he was prepared to give illegal performance-enhancing gene therapy treatment to an Olympic swimmer. The doctor was caught on camera by a German television investigator saying that he wanted £12,000 for a two-week treatment that would help to strengthen the lungs of a fictitious American swimmer.

The opening paragraph refers to gene doping, however the German story develops more aspects of illicit sports doping for 2008:

The documentary, broadcast by ARD on Germany’s main channel last night, went on to show evidence that drugs firms in China are prepared to sell steroids that have not passed full clinical trials, as well as erythropoietin (EPO), the blood-boosting drug, at a price far cheaper than in the West. In the case of one steroid, 100g was sold for €150 (about £120) when the price in Europe would have been more than €6,000.

...With the Olympics beginning in Beijing in a little more than two weeks, the documentary evidence of cheap, on-demand gene therapy alarmed David Howman, the director general of the World AntiDoping Agency (Wada). “This is worse than my worst fears,” he said.

When the head of a hospital gene therapy department in China was approached by a fictitious American swimming coach seeking stem-cell treatment for one of his swimmers, the doctor replied: “Yes. We have no experience with sportspeople here, but the treatment is safe and we can help you.”

That's doctor in whom to entrust confidence: "no experience with sportspeople".

Asked how it would work, the doctor said: “It strengthens lung function and stem cells go into the bloodstream and reach the organs. It takes two weeks. I recommend four intravenous injections . . . 40 million stem cells or double that, the more the better. We also use human growth hormones, but you have to be careful because they are on the doping list.”

And the price? “Twenty-four thousand dollars,” the doctor said.

Ouch, expensive, but then again swimmers spend 100,000 in trainers and coaches. Here is a paragraph from a consensus panel of international experts on the "Molecular basis of connective tissue and muscle injuries in sport "

[Arne Ljungqvist, Martin P. Schwellnus, Norbert Bachl,et al, Clinics in Sports Medicine, 27, Pages 231-239 (Jan 2008)]

Mesenchymal stem cells are adult tissue-producing cells that have been isolated from various parts of the body, including cartilage, bone marrow, synovium, adipose tissue, articular cartilage, muscle, and tendons [70], [71], [72]. Potentially, mesenchymal stem cells can be used for tissue-engineering strategies through implantation of scaffolds and gels, for gene delivery, and for production of growth factor to stimulate tissue repair or inhibit tissue degradation [73], [74], [75]. Most studies have been conducted in animal models. Some studies of human bone, cartilage, and tendons have produced positive results [76], [77], [78]. Further controlled clinical trials in musculoskeletal injuries in humans are warranted, however. Reasons for the lack of progress in this field include the need to find the optimal sources of and methods for the differentiation of cells and for the development of optimal surgical delivery materials and methods [79], [80]. Although some studies have shown negative effects, including ectopic calcification and connective tissue overgrowth [78], further clinical trials should be undertaken to determine whether long-term complications exist.

The Chinese doctor appears to have the protocol down a little better than one would think after reading the paragraph above. How did this happen? If practiced would the protocol lead to serious complications or death?

Will the 2008 Olympics be the first to see 'stem cell doping'?
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09-27-2011, 04:38 AM
Post: #2
RE: Stem cell doping available?
Another source here:

Dr. Johnny Huard, one of the nation's leading gene-therapy researchers, never intended his groundbreaking medical research to cause any trouble.

His goal in pushing the boundaries of modern science was to improve quality of life, be it through a new treatment for muscular dystrophy or a quicker recovery time from a torn knee ligament. But the more he uncovers and the more he learns, the more he finds himself standing in front of the anti-doping watchdogs, explaining the potential performance-enhancing capabilities of his research.

Although most of the focus on the future of cheating and doping in sports centers on gene doping, in which an athlete might someday be able to be injected with a gene that will produce muscle-building hormones, one of Huard's latest theories involving adult stem cells has the anti-doping establishment newly concerned.

And here's why: The new technology, at the absolute forefront of tissue re-engineering research, could allow athletes to use their own stem cells to grow bigger, stronger muscles. And because the stem cells would be an entirely natural substance, from an athlete's own body, they theoretically would be undetectable.


Photo courtesy Dr. Johnny Huard
Dr. Johnny Huard believes if stem cells are injected into healthy tissue, they would respond by making that tissue "even stronger."
"In essence, we're talking about taking part of yourself and injecting it back into you somewhere else. It's 100 percent naturally you," says Huard, director of the Growth and Development Laboratory at the Children's Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh. "And if that's the case, do we call that cheating?"
In ongoing research, doctors have discovered that if you take a biopsy of a biceps muscle, for example, and inject the stem cells from that biopsy into an injured tissue, the stem cells will repair that tissue faster and with more proficiency than conventional treatment. The theories already have been put to use to help repair cardiac tissue, broken bones and torn muscles in rodents. Early testing with humans has shown that adult stem cell injections can help elderly patients regain bladder control.

What does tissue regeneration have to do with performance enhancement? Although specific studies have not been conducted yet, Huard believes that if the stem cells were injected into tissue that didn't need repair, they would respond by making the healthy tissue "even stronger."

"We're not talking about taking a bad athlete and making him super," Huard said. "We're talking about taking a super athlete and giving him that fraction-of-a-second edge to get that gold medal."

Beyond gene doping and stem cells, the quest for gold likely will lead athletes to more functional elective surgeries in the future, procedures with benefits similar to the way LASIK improves vision. British bioethicist Dr. Andy Miah, author of the book "Genetically Modified Athletes: Biomedical Ethics, Gene Doping and Sport," believes we're not far from the day when athletes will have microscopic devices implanted in their brains to boost performance.

It sounds like science fiction, but the technology is being studied to help people suffering from Parkinson's disease. A convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science could lead to the implementation of a chip that would help an athlete keep in shape, keep his arm or head steady, or elicit other physiological responses during competition, Miah said.

"Some would argue that this opens the door towards creating freak shows," Miah said. "Yet if we look carefully at an athlete's capability in relation to what is normal, we are already there."

It is stem cell research such as Huard's that could cause the most headaches for the watchdogs. For one, is it actually cheating if you're using something from your own body and just moving it somewhere else? And if it is, how would the watchdogs and the testers be able to detect that?

"I don't think this is any different than anything we've seen in the past," said Travis Tygart, the senior managing director of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. "Whether it's designer steroids or new pharmaceutical drugs like EPO or human growth hormone, it's the same sort of idea, that athletes who are going to cheat are going to go to all extremes to do so without getting caught. And that's why it's so important to have a mechanism in place to get at all those new forms of cheating."

By mechanism, Tygart means USADA itself, the independent anti-doping agency for Olympic sport in this country, which has been in operation only since October 2000. Although the public perception might be that groups such as USADA are always one or two steps behind the cheaters, the reality is the cheaters had one heck of a head start.

Stem Cells
Stem cells are the foundation for every organ, tissue and cell in the body. The three main categories of stem cells are embryonic stem cells (derived from blastocysts), adult stem cells (found in adult tissues) and cord blood stem cells (found in a baby's umbilical cord after birth.)
Controversy has surrounded embryonic stem cell research because the cells can be obtained only through the destruction of days-old embryos from fertility clinics. Many oppose this research because they consider this embryo the moral equivalent of a human being.
Dr. Johnny Huard's research involves adult stem cells that are already in a human's body, similar to the way stem cells in bone marrow are used to treat leukemia. Dr. Thomas Vangsness's clinical study on meniscus injuries also involves adult stem cells. And Dr. Harris is the director of Cord Blood Registry, a company that stores an infant's cord blood should it be needed to treat injury or disease in the future.
- Wayne Drehs But now, Tygart believes that gap is nearly nonexistent. In working alongside local, state and federal law enforcement -- as well as doctors, trainers, scientists and researchers such as Huard -- Tygart is confident his group is at a point where it can stay ahead of the cheaters.
For Huard, the balance between helping a boy with muscular dystrophy and creating the formula a high-jumper needs to win gold is a difficult one.

"As soon as you help one side, you have to worry about the other," Huard said. "I just look at it as a sign of success. If I'm getting calls from USADA, it means I'm doing something pretty good in terms of muscle healing."

Said Tygart: "You don't want these researchers to stop developing these technologies. It would be ridiculous to suggest that. You want to have these productive discussions to examine what we can do so these drugs and developments don't become abused by an athlete seeking an advantage."

The science might be here already.

Dr. Thomas Vangsness, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Southern California and a team physician for USC athletics, is working on the first clinical study for stem cell biology in orthopedic surgery, in which stem cells are being used to repair meniscus tears in the knee. Although the double-blind project is only a year old and has yet to draw any conclusions, Vangsness knows what his experienced eyes can see.

"I personally see things growing," he said. "But I'm still blinded, so I can't really tell you for sure."

As with any medical advancement, there are concerns about cost as well as potential side effects.

Research in gene therapy was dealt a blow last month when Jolee Mohr, a 36-year-old mother from Springfield, Ill., died after receiving the second dose of a genetically engineered arthritis therapy in experimental stages. Although the exact cause of Mohr's death is not known, it was the second death in the history of gene-therapy trials. In 1999, 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger, part of a University of Pennsylvania study, died of a massive immune reaction to gene-therapy treatment.

Dr. Freddy Fu, who works with Huard as an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh, shares similar concerns about the effect stem cell injections could have on the body.

"There is some concern that a stem cell is like a cancer cell," Fu said. "Like going from Darth Vader to Obi-Wan, they might not be too far apart. But knowing what we do about athletes, someone will try it."

Not everyone is convinced the technology will work. Dr. David Harris, an immunology professor at the University of Arizona and the director of the Cord Blood Registry (one of the largest cord blood banks in the country), doesn't agree that stem cells will strengthen an already-healthy muscle.

"If there's no stress or damage to the tissue, they don't do anything," Harris said. "This is not a way to get bigger muscles or hit more home runs. It's a way for athletes to recover quicker from a potential career-ending injury."

Whatever the future might bring, the idea of reproducing the next Michael Jordan through stem cells, gene therapy, cloning or any other scientific discovery is far-fetched. "You could clone Michael Jordan and have the world's greatest accountant," said Dr. Tom Murray, president of the Hastings Center, a bioethics research firm. "So much more goes into it than genes."

But that doesn't mean there shouldn't be concern. According to Murray, who also serves as chairman of the ethics panel for the World Anti-Doping Agency, sports is at a crossroads.

"Either it will become a free-for-all, where it's less and less about who's the best athlete and more about who has the best chemist and biomedical guy, or athletes and fans will become disenthralled with all this scientific manipulation and will want to see what human beings are capable of on their own," Murray said.

"Or we'll probably continue to muddle somewhere in between."

Sometimes I get the feeling the whole world is against me, but deep down I know that's not true. Some smaller countries are neutral.
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09-27-2011, 04:45 AM
Post: #3
RE: Stem cell doping available?
So far only available in China and really expensive. Might be of interest if you are a pro but I don't see the average guy spending $20k for somewhat better benchpress.
But it does say a lot about the anti-doping (WADA, USADA) establishment obsession with drugs and therapies that are not endangering your health at all.

I don't mean to sound bitter, cold, or cruel, but I am, so that's how it comes out.
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09-27-2011, 05:03 AM
Post: #4
RE: Stem cell doping available?
Not available in Europe. I guess this is not so hot, maybe small improvements. This matters to pros at Olympics, not to bros in the gym...
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09-28-2011, 12:06 AM
Post: #5
RE: Stem cell doping available?
Stem cell doping really made some waves in 2008 but has hardly been discussed ever since. This is interesting. I'm quite sceptical as for the possibilities of Chinese physicians. Medical fraud is very common in Asia. Watch for some Western uni or corporation announcing a breakthrough in this area.

Life is dangerous. No one had ever survived it.
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09-28-2011, 01:37 AM
Post: #6
RE: Stem cell doping available?
There are some stem-cell products on the market. You know what? I don't believe any of their claims. To begin with, none of those I know are intended for performance enhancement. But it looks like BS anyway...organ-specific healing hahaha.

" I'm depressed, Garfield. After I'm gone, no-one will care that I ever existed. "
" Hey, cheer up, Jon. They don't care now. "
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03-12-2012, 09:00 PM
Post: #7
RE: Stem cell doping available?
UPDATE: stem cell doping is illegal in Germany and several other European countries now. However, there is no proof yet that it works...
This is really frightening me as it also seems that stem cell doping has no side-effects so their logic is just "don't permit anything that could make people bigger" Sad
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