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31.03.2016


Actovegin may soon be on the doping list

Many professional athletes are familiar with Actovegin – a substance that speeds up recovery from injury, enhances performance and is not yet on the doping list. There are posts doing the social media rounds which suggest that the days of Actovegin's doping-free status might be numbered. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen suggest that they have demonstrated the substance’s performance enhancing effect. We read the study.

Actovegin
Actovegin is an extract from calves' blood. The exact composition is unknown. The manufacturer Nycomed – part of Takeda Producent [tpi.takeda.com] – puts Actovegin in gels, pills and injectables. It is the last category of products that are popular in doping circles. Although Actovegin is not on the doping list, endurance athletes report that injections of Actovegin have an ergogenic effect.


Actovegin may soon be on the doping list



According to a 2012 human study done at Cardiff University, the performance enhancing effect of Actovegin is negligible, but that might be due to the experimental setup. [Int J Sports Med. 2012 Apr;33(4):305-9.] The Danes did their study in an attempt to obtain more clarity on the matter.

Study
The researchers extract cells from the muscles of eight inactive overweight subjects, and peeled the membranes of the cells away. They then exposed the cells to two different concentrations of Actovegin.

Results
Exposure to Actovegin boosted the ATP production in the muscle cells.


Actovegin may soon be on the doping list



The researchers were able to show that Actovegin induced the Complex-I and Complex-II enzyme systems in the mitochondria to work harder, as a result of which the oxidative phosphorylation, in other words the charging and recharging of the ATP energy molecule, increased.

Doping or not?
"We found a marked and dose-dependent positive effect of in vitro administration of Actovegin on mitochondrial function in human skeletal muscle", the researchers wrote. "If this improvement translates into an ergogenic effect in elite athletes it reiterates the need to consider an inclusion of Actovegin on WADA's active list."

The researchers are by no means a hundred percent sure that Actovegin will actually end up on the doping list, and they admit this freely.

"One obvious limitation of the study is of course the lack of comparison between the observed increased mitochondrial respiratory capacity and exercise capacity. Unfortunately, Actovegin is a non-legal drug in Denmark, and as such, it is not possible for us to make this comparison in humans."

"Also, the effect of Actovegin was tested in permeabilized muscle fibres, but whether Actovegin in vivo actually can cross the cell membrane and exerts its effect on the mitochondria is not known."

The muscle cells that the researchers used for their test-tube study were in the end from untrained individuals. "As opposed to elite athletes, untrained subjects are far from their physiological limits and accordingly, they have a great potential to improve their exercise capacity, including the mitochondrial oxidative function", the Danes wrote.

"Therefore, if Actovegin has an effect on the mitochondrial respiration, the effect would definitely be detectable in these individuals. Thus, to ensure that we did not miss any potential effects of the drug, we tested the effect of Actovegin on untrained subject. Consequently, the transferability of our results to trained and even elite-trained subjects can be challenged."

Source:
Eur J Sport Sci. 2016 Jan 8:1-7. [Epub ahead of print].

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