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An end to genetic diseases

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An end to genetic diseases

The United States has a very diverse heritage. There is no "American" race. Americans are the blending of many cultures throughout many generations. With this blending of cultures comes a blending of genes. In the past, genes have not been well understood. They were not understood until Mendel did experiments on plants to find out why different plants of the same species had different characteristics. His goal was to find the key to unlock the mystery of inheritance (Copeland and Hammer 12). After many years of collecting data, he unlocked the door. He discovered that the child gets one element from each parent for every trait. He also discovered that one of them is more "dominant," and shows up over the other, recessive, one (Brown 16). He published his results, but their significance was not understood at the time. "Sixteen years after his death, three people believed to have the key. Looking for other results to verify the ideas, they came across Mendel's results" (14). Their data agreed, and with this a new science was born - the science of Genetics (15). Due to modern medicine, such as antibiotics and rehabilitation, many genetic diseases have been allowed to survive. In nature, these diseases would not have survived to the extent that they do now. Advances in science and medicine have allowed these problems to thrive. Further advances in science may be able to terminate genetic diseases through cloning.

Genetic problems have plagued the United States for centuries. Genetic diseases and mutations are more prevalent in today's world than ever before, due to advances in medicine (CHMG). Charles Darwin's theory of evolution stated that only the strong survive (Lutz 10). Modern medicine has changed that theory by allowing the weak, or people with genetic diseases, to survive. Genetic defects are caused by mutations. "When genes change in any way, they produce permanent new characteristics called mutations" (Copeland and Hamer 19). On that note, "there have been many which have had little effect on us, while others have been important in our development" (19). Along with the necessary mutations, there are "mutations that can cause serious, and sometimes fatal, disease" (Brown 16).

There are many factors that may cause mutation, such as genetic accidents, environmental hazards, and human sources. The genetic accidents are regular mutations in the cells where "chemical changes in the cell cause a breakdown in the normal structure of a gene or a group of genes" (28). Mutation is expected to be "one in every fifty thousand to one hundred thousand times the cell is copied. Despite odds, accidents do occur" (28), which can result in deformities and illness. The only way this can affect a child is if the mutation occurs in either the sperm or the egg. Human causes of mutation include x-rays, nuclear fallout, and toxic chemicals. The environment can cause mutations as well. Sources of these are exposure to the sun's radiation and to earth's radioactive materials (Copeland and Hamer 19). "Radiation is an extremely dangerous mutagen because a person can get a deadly dose and not feel it" (Brown 28-29). As a matter of fact, "the mutation may not show up until the affected person has children, and the child has the mutation" (29).

These mutations would not have been as large of a problem if medicine had not become as advanced. Modern treatments and antibiotics have allowed these mutations to thrive, whereas in nature they would not have been as prevalent. In this society, treatments are available for many genetic diseases. These treatments prolong the life of the individual carrying it by making the ill patient more healthy. Antibiotics prolong their life as well. Antibiotics do this by treating the symptoms of the diseases. This allows the people to reproduce, spreading the bad gene. Without these methods of treatment, reproduction of these diseases would have been greatly reduced. Many mutations that have survived are now diseases that are causing a great deal of problems.

Diabetes is a genetic disease that affects the lives of many Americans. This is not just an isolated disease where a few people have it; it is very widespread. "More than seven million people in the United States suffer from diabetes, and about five million more have it and are unaware of it" (71). Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body uses food and causes sugar levels in the blood to be too high. Symptoms of diabetes include tiredness, slow healing sores, frequent urination, as well as feeling hungry and thirsty often, losing weight, and feeling weak (Medinex). When a person has diabetes, "something goes wrong in the pancreas where the hormones to control sugar levels are made" (Brown 71). During digestion, our bodies change food into glucose, a sugar (Copeland and Hamer 34). Glucose is "the main fuel that the body burns for energy" (Brown 70). When glucose begins to circulate in the bloodstream, it needs something to help it enter the body cells to utilize the energy. That substance is called insulin. "Insulin comes into the bloodstream by attaching itself to a receptor site on the cell, therefore allowing the glucose to enter the cell" (Medinex). This keeps the right amount of sugar in your blood. When a person has diabetes, the "pancreas either stops making insulin, or does not make enough" (Copeland and Hamer 37). Without enough insulin, glucose can not be used by the body as a source of energy. In addition, this makes the sugar content in your blood very high because the sugar is not being used.

Most of the time the body produces some insulin, but not enough. This is known as maturity-onset diabetes, or non-insulin-dependant diabetes. The other, less common diabetes is called juvenile diabetes, or insulin-dependant diabetes. When the body produces an inadequate amount of insulin, there are two possible treatments (Medinex). If it is a severe case and very little insulin is made, injections of insulin are necessary (Brown 70). "If not, pills can be taken to help the pancreas produce insulin. Relaxation, diet, and exercise are also factors which affect the body's production of insulin" (Copeland and Hamer 29). If the person has juvenile diabetes, injections of insulin are necessary because the body does not produce any insulin.

These injections allow the person to survive without many problems. This in turn allows the person to reproduce, continuing the life of the gene for diabetes. In nature, the person would not likely survive long enough to reproduce and pass on the bad gene. Without treatment, the person may die of malnutrition or dehydration.

A genetic disease that traumatizes many people in this country is Tay-Sachs Disease, or TSD. TSD is a "genetic disorder in young children that causes progressive loss of mental and motor ability" (Pilgrim New Media). This disease is specific to a certain people. TSD "tends to occur more often in families of Eastern European Jewish origin" (Brown 65). In fact, 85% of children with TSD are Jewish. Not only Jews are affected by it. TSD has "been reported among the Amish, Italian Catholics, and in a group of Non-Jewish Canadians" (Pilgrim New Media). Approximately one in every twenty-five Jews in the US is a carrier of the TSD gene (Brown 67). For a person to have the disease, they must receive the bad gene from both the mother and the father, since the gene for the disease is recessive. Those who have this rare disease "are missing an important enzyme called hexosaminidase A (hex-A), which breaks down fatty materials (lipids) in the brain and central nervous system" (62). When the lipids in the brain are not broken down, they build up in the brain tissue. This eventually destroys the brain cells (65).

The disease process starts early in the fetus of a pregnant woman, but TSD "isn't usually diagnosed until several months after birth when the symptoms begin to show" (Pilgrim New Media). Babies with TSD seem healthy at birth and appear to develop normally, but somewhere between three to six months there is a change. The baby stops doing normal baby things, such as "crawling, making sounds, playing, and smiling. Soon the infant can't sit up anymore, or roll over, or reach for anything" (Brown 63). From "two years on there are chronic respiratory problems" (63). As the disease progresses, it becomes difficult for the child to eat, and "he or she may suffer many coughing spells while eating" (Pilgrim New Media). Sudden noises can send victims of TSD into fits of screaming. The illness may seem to level off for weeks to months, but the child will eventually become "blind, deaf, paralyzed, mentally retarded, and out of touch with reality" (Brown 64). Most children affected by this horrible disease die of bronchopneumonia. Bronchopneumonia is an infection in the lungs, which makes breathing difficult. Very few children with this disease live past the age of five (Pilgrim New Media). Tay-Sachs Disease is a horrifying and unforgiving disease.

To an extent, this disease has survived in nature. There is no cure for this relentless disease. The only way to stop it is cloning. By cloning, the parents can be sure the child does not have the disease since NST only uses the DNA from one parent. There is no possible way the child could have the disease. The only possibility is that the child could be a carrier of the gene.

Sickle Cell Anemia is a genetic disease that burdens a great deal of African Americans. "This disease is most common in blacks, but it occurs in people of Greek, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, Asiatic, and Indian decent as well" (Brown 55). This inherited disorder of red blood cells results from a defective hemoglobin molecule. "The red color in blood cells comes from millions of hemoglobin molecules in each cell" (The Daily Apple). Hemoglobin is a protein found in the blood cells. Healthy red blood cells are shaped like a doughnut. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. "When a normal red blood cell releases its oxygen, it remains doughnut shaped" (Brown 53). If the blood cell contains the sickle hemoglobin, "once the hemoglobin releases its oxygen the cells become rigid and rough" (53). The blood cells "elongate and change from a doughnut shape to a sickle shape" (53). Sickle hemoglobin carry as much oxygen as normal hemoglobin do, but one problem is that "normal blood cells live about 120 days. Sickle cells live less than half that time" (The Daily Apple). The body can not make new blood cells fast enough to replace the sickle cells that are being broken down. The other differences between healthy cells and sickle cells are that normal cells are "soft gelatin like bags," where as "sickle cells are hard like pieces of stone" (The Daily Apple). In addition, the normal cells flow easily through the small blood vessels, but the sickle cells often jam up small blood vessels (Brown 54).

People with Sickle Cell Anemia "endure severe pain crises, caused by the blocking of the blood vessels with sickle cells" (The Daily Apple). When the blood vessels are blocked, "tissues are starved for oxygen, causing pain that can last for hours" (Brown 54). Some symptoms of this disease are sores on the leg, particularly around the ankle, that are slow to heal. Also, hands and feet may swell and get hot and painful (54). "Children with sickle cell disease may be below average in size, and be susceptible to respiratory infections" (The Daily Apple). The sickle cell disease can "lead to stroke and other complications, and may leave its victims susceptible to infections and disease-- and even premature death" (The Daily Apple). There are approximately fifty thousand victims of Sickle Cell Anemia in the United States.

One in ten African Americans carries the sickle cell trait (The Daily Apple). The fact that they carry the trait does not mean they have the disease. Like the other genetic diseases, Sickle Cell Anemia is a recessive trait. You must inherit the trait from both of your parents for you to have the disease. Cloning uses only one parent's genes, so the child could not possibly have the disease, only the trait. In nature, carriers must live with the idea that if they have children it is possible for it to have sickle cell anemia.

"Cystic fibrosis is the number one fatal inherited disease among young people in the United States" (Brown 44). "It is estimated that one in every twenty Americans is a carrier of this defective gene" (CFF). Cystic fibrosis is like the rest of the genetic diseases in the fact that you must get it from both of your parents to have the disease. That means if both parents are carriers, each child has a twenty five percent chance of not even being a carrier. They have the same chance of having the disease. Your greatest chance is that you will be a carrier, with a fifty percent chance of that. The most common symptoms of cystic fibrosis are respiratory problems, digestive problems, and high salt content in their sweat (CFF). When one has cystic fibrosis, the body "produces abnormal amounts of thick, sticky mucus that tends to clog the air passage in the lungs and interferes with breathing" (Brown 45). This excess mucus may also interfere with digestion by "blocking the ducts of the pancreas, preventing digestive juices from reaching the intestines" (CFF). As a result, food passes through the body without being broken down and absorbed, and the patient does not get the proper nourishment (Brown 46).

Most cystic fibrosis patients develop lung disease at some time in their life. "Respiratory complications are the main cause of death of patients with cystic fibrosis" (CFF). Furthermore, cystic fibrosis patients are susceptible to lung infections that are resistant to certain kinds of antibiotics (CFF). This makes the life of the person with the disease miserable. In nature, this disease would not have survived to the extent it has. These respiratory problems could very easily lend themselves to premature death. Antibiotics are used to aid the patient in living. Cloning would stop the transfer of this disease, and there could be carriers only and no children with the disease.

One way to eliminate all of these diseases is by cloning. "Humans are already putting human genes into pigs for organ transplants" (Pence 129). Moreover, since 1987, "over a thousand have tried and ...

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