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Test to Determine Sports Prowess?

December 1, 2008

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Can $149 determine a child's athletic future? Some parents think so.

Atlas Sports Genetics, a company out of Boulder, Colo., is offering a DNA test that could possibly point to a handful of genetic codes in children that could possibly determine how successful children will be in particular sports.

The test is a harmless one: DNA is collected via a 30-second swab test along the gums and the inside of the cheeks. Information is then coded and collated and examined for a variety of things, including, most notably, the gene ACTN3 (actinin, alpha 3), which has turned up time and again in discussions of how to determine a child's sports potential.

At the heart of this practice is the idea that a person's genetic makeup contains certain combinations that predispose that person to being better at endurance sports than at sports that require power and speed. Some people have genetic makeups that are a combination of the two.

Recent studies have provided to support the idea of ATCN3 as a determinant of possible sports performance. In particular, a selection
of Olympic endurance athletes were found to have a copy of the X variant and a selection of Olympians in power sports were found to have a copy of the R variant. It should be noted, however, that the percentages were no means convincing. It should also be noted that plenty of athletes have been found to be the best in the world at something without ever having the ACTN3 protein in their genetic makup.

The debate over ACTN3's being associated with athletic performance has been around for a few years. The development of the Boulder-based test, however, is a high-profile advancement in the collection and application of that data.

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