Scientists from Italy and the United States claim to have found a method to detect human growth hormone in athletes using a simple urine test. The test will be available in approximately six months and is quite possibly one of the most important scientific breakthroughs in sports medicine.
Previously, HGH was only detectable by blood screenings. For years, researchers have been trying to develop a more non-invasive way to test for the performance-enhancing drug that has been proven to help athletes recover from injuries faster. Despite urban legend, HGH is primarily used to recover from injuries rather than to put on bulk and size.
Ceres Nanosciences, a biotechnology company based in Virginia, claims that the test can detect HGH in a person’s urine up to two weeks after use. Instead of using biological processes typical of most drug tests, researchers claim to have found a way to use nanotechnology to detect the hormone.
A microscopic web of particles, acting like a fishing net, are used to sweep through the urine specimen. These nanoparticles filter through the specimen while isolating ultra-tiny HGH residual particles.
This proposed urine screening would not only be less invasive, but also more effective, as blood tests can only detect HGH within 24-48 hours of use. The test is awaiting approval from the World Anti-Doping Agency and could be available for the start of the 2009 NFL and MLB seasons as well as the Tour de France, although the process of approval by each organization may cause some delay.
The only problem, as we all know, is that this will be an ongoing battle. As you sit and read this, there are scientists in labs scrambling to find new undetectable ways to synthetically enhance an athlete’s performance. But at least it’s a step in the right direction.
My experiences in the field of biology have led me to believe that biotechnology will yield incredible advances in the detection of all performance enhancing drugs. Other biotech methods, such as the use of fluorescently-tagged antibodies, could also be extremely useful in leveling the playing field. Hopefully in about a decade, performance-enhancing drugs will be a thing of the past thanks to scientific advances in the field of biotechnology.