Gene-Modified Super-Athletes Could Be Here By 2036

It sounds like something from a futuristic sci-fi movie, but according to new research, super-athletes could be roaming the earth in less than 20 years thanks to gene editing.

Complex gene editing could allow us to select the ideal genetic traits for perfect future sports stars, who could be competing by 2036. That’s what Arizona State University Associate Professor Diana Bowman will argue in a presentation at the University of NSW on Wednesday night

“Precision gene editing is bringing us closer to the reality of designing select genetic traits into human embryos,” Bowman said in a statement. 

“Given the high stakes involved in professional sport and the long history of state-sponsored doping programs, it’s likely some countries will soon begin experimenting with gene editing techniques like CRISPR to create super-athletes.”

“These athletes could be stronger, more powerful and have better cognitive ability than their peers.”

Dr Bowman, lead researcher for the project.

But the use of such technology will raise complex ethical and legal questions which could have significant and controversial implications for the sports industry. But it's also inevitable, Bowman said.

“The geo-political nature of sport, and the prestige associated with winning at the highest levels, makes it simply impossible for us to think otherwise,” she said.

Bowman is expected share the insights from her research project, The potential impact of human embryonic gene editing on global sports: Preparing for 2036, as part of UNSW’s Grand Challenges program in partnership with the university’s PLuS Alliance this evening.

“Our analysis will map but the future landscape and develop recommendations on pathways forward to ensure the responsible and beneficial use of gene editing in global sports over the next 20 years,” she said.

But the capabilities of gene editing won’t simply be confined to sports, and could also be unlocked by government, Bowman said.

“We propose many governments will not only allow human germline editing for enhancement but will actively facilitate the use of the technology to gain an unprecedented advantage,” she said.

The free presentation on the impact of human embryonic gene editing on elite sport will be held at the UNSW Roundhouse this evening, 25th July, between 4-5pm. Registrations can be made here.