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Doping using performance enhancing banned substances is a serious problem in almost every sport competition. Not surprisingly, the detection of these contra banned drugs is an area of active and continuous improvement and innovation by bioanalytical chemists. Additionally, most students working out in the gym and taking part in various sports need to be made aware of the doping and the health problems associated with it. Science or STEM students, in particular chemistry students, must not only be made aware of these issues, but also be taught that chemistry (and science) can provide solutions to such real-life issues. To this end, a newly developed forensic laboratory experiment is described that guides students to learn liquid chromatography mass spectrometry instrumentation (LC-MS) to detect four common doping drugs cortisol, dexamethasone, methyl prednisolone and flumethasone in camel hair samples.
In addition, the project is also designed to reinforce the importance of hair analysis as an additional sample matrix, complementary to saliva, blood and urine tests, in doping applications. In addition to learning various aspects of sample preparation, extraction, and LC-MS principles, students will also learn how to validate this method according to Food and Drugs Administration guidelines for intra and inter day precision and accuracy, recovery, stability and linearity.
This “applied forensic science” experiment was successfully implemented in a biochemistry undergraduate research course to enhance students' learning of doping issues as well as important bio-analytical and forensic biochemistry concepts. Student survey confirmed that this laboratory experiment was successful in achieving the objectives of raising awareness of doping control in students and illustrating the usefulness of chemistry in solving real-life problems. This experiment can be easily adopted in an advanced biochemistry laboratory course and taught as an inquiry-guided exercise. Such hands-on and engaging experiments should be part of undergraduate curriculum to foster deeper interest and innovation in STEM subjects to better prepare the next-generation workforce in science and technology.
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