Rapid developments in synthetic biology continue to offer solutions for multidisciplinary platforms. Gene therapy, as one of the many applications, is a promising method for the rapid improvement of human health. However, with powerful technology comes great responsibility: unethical and undesired applications of synthetic biology have remained prevalent ever since its emergence. Among these, abuse of gene therapy by athletes to improve sports performances, also known as gene doping, is a rising trend as an innovative doping strategy.

Gene doping has already caught the attention of the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) in 2003, leading to its addition to the Prohibited List for professional athletes. Extensive research efforts have been conducted to develop detection methods. However, they remain prone to failure in detecting the potential diversity of gene doping (e.g, splicing patterns, promoter choices and codon optimization). Currently the implementation of gene doping detection is explored by the doping authorities, but there is still a large need for the development of robust and reliable methods.

This year, the iGEM team TU Delft aims to develop a routine, reliable and robust method for the detection of gene doping. The method Advanced Detection of Performance Enhancement, “ADOPE”, is based on targeted next generation sequencing, using a technically unique and innovative CRISPR-Cas – Transposase fusion protein. The specificity of the Cas-protein ensures that only the targeted gene doping DNA will be edited in the necessary specific way by the transposase desired for sequencing. Our technology is developed in a way that ensures the possibility of detecting any foreign DNA as long as gRNAs are provided accordingly, which allows for the flexible application of the technique beyond gene doping detection.