Research and Development

SMRTL conducts a range of Research and Development projects focused on new analytical methods, human drug administration and pharmacokinetic studies, analysis of testing patterns in athletes and novel approaches for assessing drug use by athletes.  Recent projects include:

  • Markers of Fluid Balance  
    When interpreting irregularities in the hematological passports of athletes, it is essential to take into consideration certain confounding factors, including the hydration status of the athlete. This study aims to identify markers of fluid balance that could be used to aid in the expert interpretation of athletes’ biological passports. Here, subjects undergo intense exercise trials to induce varying levels of dehydration. Blood samples are collected before and after exercise sessions, and the changes in a number of blood and serum markers are analyzed.
  • Detection of Autologous Blood Transfusion  
    Autologous blood transfusion remains one of the more difficult to detect prohibited methods from an anti-doping standpoint. We hypothesize that autologous transfusions can be identified by measuring alterations in the dynamics of red blood cell maturation and recycling. In this study, subjects receive either an autologous blood transfusion or placebo infusion and are subsequently monitored for the few weeks that follow. Blood collections and analysis during this monitoring period will allow us to determine the efficacy and window of detection of autologous transfusions.
  • Intranasal Testosterone  
    Recently, a new intranasal gel formulation of testosterone received FDA approval as a therapeutic. Because pharmacokinetic properties of drugs vary according to the route of administration, this new formulation is important to study as the urinary metabolic footprint of intranasal testosterone has yet to be determined. In this study, subjects are administered standard doses of intranasal testosterone and monitored for a number of weeks. Following administration, the carbon isotope ratio profiles and fluctuations in the steroidal passport of the subjects will be analyzed and windows of detection will be established.
  • In vitro metabolism of small molecule drugs  
    As new performance-enhancing drugs continue hit the market, it is essential for us to understand how they are metabolized in order to develop valid detection methods. With this in mind, we have used pooled human liver microsomes and cryopreserved isolated human hepatocytes to metabolize the new drug compounds and further identified their metabolites using LC/MS/MS techniques. Examples of compounds studied in our lab include designer steroids and the HIF stabilizers.
  • Alternative matrices for detecting performance-enhancing drugs  
    Most testing for the use of performance-enhancing drugs involves detecting drugs and their metabolites in urine samples. While urine has a number of advantages such as high levels of compounds and long windows of detection, there are significant disadvantages both in terms of invasive collection procedures and ability to detect some classes of drugs used immediately before a competitive event. We are developing assays using oral fluid to detect the use of stimulants that will allow directly observed specimen collection and will definitively show presence of drugs in the blood stream at the time of a competition. In addition we are developing tests of human hair that will allow detection of performance-enhancing drug use over longer windows of time than urine currently allows.
  • Detecting designer steroids in supplements  
    Designer steroids are compounds having similar structure and activity to specifically banned anabolic agents. Recent revisions of the Controlled Substance Act now cover designer steroids, but many products remain available for purchase. Using more general mass spectrometry based structure elucidation tools, we are able to confirm the structure claims by manufacturers and to identify the presence of compounds with steroid-like features that warrant further investigation. By being proactive in identifying new products with anabolic properties, we help organizations to respond rapidly as new, currently undetected agents come in to use by athletes.