"We can grow a professional cyclist from stem cells," claim scientists – backed up by filmmakers.
Scientists in Edinburgh today announced that they would theoretically be able to grow professional athletes from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) in the lab. They are now urging the Scottish Government to grant them permission to go ahead with this experiment, the first of its kind in the world.
"Look at the controversy around doping over the last decade," said Lirpa O'Tsrif, a university researcher. "If we grew our professional sportsmen and women from the best DNA available, there simply wouldn't be a need for them to use performance-enhancing drugs."
Speaking at the Scottish Documentary Institute today, the scientists were supported by filmmaker Finlay Pretsell who is currently developing a film about British cyclist David Millar. Millar, according to Pretsell "one of the most compelling athletes Great Britain has ever produced", was the centre of a major doping scandal and is still fighting for a comeback. Pretsell said: "It would be incredible if athletes didn't have to go through such ordeals."
Pretsell was joined by fellow filmmaker Dr Amy Hardie, who made the documentary Stem Cell Revolutions in close collaboration with scientists. "This is so wonderful," Dr Hardie said. "When we were making our film, I learned about the discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells. It is so fantastic that stem cells for sports can be made without the use of human embryos." Referring to her current work at Strathcarron Hospice, Dr Hardie mentioned that many patients there had heard about stem cell treatments, two of them being part of clinical trials. "But wait till they hear about the exciting new possibilities in the field of sports!"
Speaking for the Scottish Government and announcing the upcoming launch of Scottish Cells International, Elba Veilebnu added: "Stem cells for sports could soon become the number one export from Scotland. Whisky, just like doping, will become a thing of the past."
Maja Borg, an expert on futurists, pointed out that this is not just about designing the ideal cyclist. People should also think about the future of the bicycle: "As part of my new film Future My Love, I'm looking at 3D printing technology. We could soon print an entire bicycle with this machine."
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