Since finishing the sequencing of the human genome in 2003, millions of individuals around the globe have been curious as to what story their DNA tells. Recently, thousands upon thousands of individuals are being tested for athletic performance. Some wish to know if they possess variants on particular genes associated with elite athletes while others wish to know if they should focus on endurance or strength athletic events. Either way, there has been much controversy over the legitimacy of these tests.
More than 200 genes have been linked to physical performance, and 20 variants have been associated with the status of elite athlete. Two mutations in particular have received much attention: the ACE gene and the ACTN3 gene. The ACE gene helps to regulate blood pressure and cardiac and respiratory efficiency. This is important information to an athlete. One variant of the gene suggests that the individual is predisposed for endurance events while the other suggests that the individual should focus on power and strength events. The ACTN3 gene codes for a protein that regulates fast-twitch muscle fibers. The variant ACTN3 R577X has been associated with Olympic-caliber sprinters.
Though many studies have been conducted, there is still much to learn about these genes. For example, almost one-third of those living in the United Kingdom carry the ACTN3 variant, but only a small percentage are elite sprinters. Other factors come into play regarding one’s athletic performance. These include diet, training, and determination. Genes alone do not determine if one becomes an elite athlete.
I found this article particularly fascinating because 23andme has a report that tells users if they are likely endurance or power types. According to my report, I am likely a sprinter. Interestingly enough, over past summer, I began running longer distances. This certainly makes me question how much the variants in our genes affect our physical performance and how much is due to other environmental factors.
Salamon, Maureen. "Genetic Testing for Athletic Ability." Genome Magazine. Genome, 23 June 2016. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.