From Epigenetics to Anti-Doping Application: A New Tool of Detection

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Eukaryotic genomes transcribe up to 90% of the genomic DNA but only 1-2% of these transcripts encode for proteins, whereas the vast majority are transcribed as non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). They are divided into short ncRNA, particularly micro-RNA (miRNA) and small interference RNA (siRNA), and long ncRNAs. Noteworthy, they are unexpectedly stable since they are protected from degradation through different mechanisms: package in exosomes/microvesicles structures, in apoptotic bodies, in HDL lipoprotein, or by RNA binding proteins. For several years already, biomarkers have been used to detect biological disease; in the last years, a requirement appeared to find some of them to unearth the signs of doping. The potential of ncRNAs as a biological candidate is strongly debated and it seems to have become the right tool in the anti-doping hands. In the recent years, the next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology was used by the World Anti-Doping Agency to draft the athlete biological passport (ABP), measuring the circulating miRNAs and applying these new biomarkers in anti-doping. NGS technology does not require any prior knowledge of ncRNAs, but the limit to employ this biomarker to detect performance-enhancing drug use must consider the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that might affect measurements.

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