'Sports gene' could predict ability to run fast - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

'Sports gene' could predict ability to run fast

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The study of genetics has grown tremendously over the past 15 years. One gene getting some attention is referred to as the 'sports gene.' 

What if there was a test that could predict which sport you child may excel at? Researchers have discovered one gene called ACTN3 which is associated with the ability to run fast. ACTN3 encodes the protein that's found in muscle fibers.

"If you have certain changes in that gene's function in that gene's sequence, it can be predictable whether you're better at running fast or running distance events. It's fast twitch and slow twitch muscles which give you different abilities to run fast or slow," said Dr. Gareth Davies, molecular geneticist at Avera Institute for Human Genetics.

What Dr. Davies stresses is that this gene could possibly indicate the gift of speed versus endurance.

"It's a gene that give you maybe an insight into the possibility that a person may be able to be faster than another person," said Dr. Davies

Dr. Davies calls ACTN3 a gene of very small effect. There are many genes associated with becoming a top-level athlete -- not just one. Environment also plays a role.

"You have to train, you have to practice, you have to be mentally strong. So really, I don't have any concerns if people want to do this and test their children," said Dr. Davies.

A mom of two very active boys, Julie Norton says sports are a huge part of her family's lives. She says testing for the presence of ACTN3 is only important if it added value to how her boys trained for a particular sport.

"Well as a mom of athletes, I think it's important for me to support what it is they like and certainly if it's something they're good and this might be able to help them in a way that you can be more supportive, I think that's great," said Norton.

As for steering her boys towards one sport simply because of a DNA test, she says she would not do.
"But the reality is, I think regardless of your genetics, it's really the effort and the work that they're going to put into it and whether they love it and is something they'd be engaged in," said Norton.

"No matter how much we want maybe our children to do a certain thing, it's not pre-defined," said Dr. Davies.
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