Have you ever wondered how Olympic athletes are so talented? There’re actually two traits that influence this… environmental and genetic factors. Yes that’s right, genetics! Scientists can test your DNA if you want to learn more about your natural athleticism. How cool is that!
Genetics in the Olympics
Two genes that scientists study the most in reference to athletic performance are ACTN3 and ACE. The scientific names for these are Actinin Alpha 3 and Angiotensin Converting Enzyme. They are strands of proteins can be found in our DNA. The ACTN3 gene affects muscle fibres and functions. It is a protein that tells different cell types what to do. Scientists have found that there is a strong correlation between elite runners and mutations in this gene. Some variations of the ACE gene effect endurance and strength in the human body.
The test is comprised of a saliva sample from both parents and child. It only takes 3 weeks to process the results. It will conclude which proteins and what variations of the gene the patient has. Those tested should not consider the results as definite conclusions. Some Olympic athletes have received negative results from the test; however, their hard-work and passion defied the odds!
There are other physical factors that influence a person’s athleticism abilities such as aerobic capacity. Scientists can study the maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) of athletes through an Astrand test. After the study the results will determine how much oxygen the patient can hold at once. There is a strong relationship between successful athletes and a high VO2max. Although this is a major contributor to athletic performance, it does not mean that someone with a low VO2max would be an unsuccessful athlete. Therefore, the testing should not be used for any final conclusions.
Learn more about the science behind the Olympics this summer at STEM Camp! Get your child registered at www.stemcamp.ca!