Otherwise healthy, high-performance athletes are sometimes at risk of sudden death on the field. The culprit? Genes. But now researchers at Lisbon Technical University are testing a new experimental biomedical technology that could one day prevent these unexpected deaths.
The scientists have developed a test for certain DNA mutations, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This particular medical malformation occurs only in one in 500 individuals and evades regular health screenings.
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The test itself evaluates an individual’s genetic material via a microchip, says researcher and engineer Ana Freitas:
“At this moment what we can do with this chip is evaluating 32 genes, all of them related to cardio hypertrophy and therefore to sudden death. We can do it very quickly. We can give an answer in four weeks and in a very complete way.”
The chips are now on order in the thousands by soccer clubs and federations around the world looking to prevent the cardiac-related deaths of their athletes, says Pedro Ribeiro, CEO of Soccer High Performance Gest:
“In this moment we are trying to negotiate with 18 countries at a global level. We are negotiating with federations, clubs, and other private enterprises. We have signed four deals, three outside Europe and one in Europe so far.”
With the adoption of these tests looking to take off and made into a sport-industry standard, cardiac related death on the field may soon be a thing of the past.