How often do you hear a person with a genetic disease? If not through friends, I’m sure you do hear in news. Let’s talk from basics: Genes in your DNA, which resides inside every cell of your body defining your entire self from ur looks to your allergies to your intellect to your behavior.
If you want to have a clear basic understanding of what is the role of DNA, I recommend you watch this video – https://youtu.be/zwibgNGe4aY. All you need to know is DNA helps create all those proteins that work together to define numerous functions inside our body – digest all kinds of food, repair/heal broken tissues, protect from infections and fever, grow just the right length and strength with the correct functioning of all our organs. So, how does a perfectly functioning DNA, end up having wrong information coded in them affecting us such that we end up having incurable genetic diseases like various cancers, intellectual disabilities, etc.?
One of the reasoning starts with the 1% difference in our DNA sequence, which increases or decreases our susceptibility to a particular disease. There are millions of single A, T, C or G sequence changes that have endless combination possibilities because of our unique parents, that lead to our variation. That’s just the 1% difference. These changes mostly are silent, making the same protein and ultimately the same expression in every individual, but some of them are easily damaged, some are tough to damage; making a person more susceptible to disease while another person resistant. This is just one aspect. A technical brief description on what I just wrote about – https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/genomicresearch/snp.
The other reasoning is age. If you are not shocked, you are aware. If you are shocked, you can read some real data – https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/age.
So, how exactly does age get associated with cancer, which predominantly is the toughest genetic disease? When our cell grows (because we have to continue to grow our organs and eventually ourselves), DNA gets replicated and equally distributed to each cell so that all organs work properly and in tandem, just like any team work in an office or school. After each replication, DNA reads itself making sure it’s work is correctly coded and all DNA strands are identical. If something is wrong, there are various repair mechanisms which correct the mistakes and makes DNA perfect. What happens when we grow old? Growth rate slows down, there is not enough need for DNA to replicate and let me remind you, repair mechanism won’t work unless it feels there is a check needed. Environment changes, food habit changes, exposure to various medicines, drinking, smoking and so on and so forth – all these affect your DNA. The DNA of a particular cell or multiple cells, which have the wrong code, start thinking that it needs to start working towards growth. We have tons of growth-promoting genes, and growth resisting genes. Deleting the growth resisting genes or duplicating the growth-promoting genes is easily possible in a globally warming earth, or artificially-made-food-eating habits, or just a cigar. Don’t believe me, see the articles – https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/diet-and-physical-activity.html; https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/a_human_health_perspective_on_climate_change_full_report_508.pdf; http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/smoking-and-cancer/how-smoking-causes-cancer.
You might know that decades ago, humans weren’t known to be living beyond 60yrs. Science advanced their lifespan to 90yrs. But, science didn’t know DNA will change the story, and that it does get tired functioning just like old people do (or probably that is why they get tired). There are stories you might have heard, about smokers who haven’t got lung cancer, about obese people not having any obesity-related diseases, etc.. Let me tell you those cases are just a handful. They aren’t superior humans. They aren’t looking far into the future. Generations of the smokers can carry those DNA changes that he/she developed due to smoking, and those genetic changes become the natural DNA content in their children who can be born with it. We aren’t enough aware how any of us can be affected, but it’s time we must!
Let’s talk about how can we contribute. Instead of saying, ‘Oh! my uncle got cancer, I feel helpless’ or ‘Oh! my niece is born with epilepsy, I feel terrible’, let’s take an oath to fight against transferring the transformed bad genes to our children and future generation. One way is to stay aware of your family diseases and taking that care required by you to avoid that happening to you or your children. This is well known and well advised by doctors, scientists, nutritionists, health experts, etc. and it stands 100% true.
The second way is to contribute your blood to genetic research studies or clinical trials (if you have a genetic disease). If you see the history, infectious diseases spread like super fast and were conquered fast too. Genetic diseases are slow in development and also are rarely diagnosable because of their varied spectrum of clinical features. The reason infectious diseases are easy to conquer is that we get tons of humans infected and we can easily study them to see a trend in the genetic change caused by the infectious agent and also what is the strength of the infectious agent. The secret is in the number. Genetic diseases don’t get diagnosed easily because although we know the entire DNA sequence of a human, we are still figuring the thousands of genes that we carry and their functions. One patient might have ten genetic changes, we can’t easily figure out which one genetic change is really causing the disease unless there are hundred more such people with same genetic change pattern. If you submit your blood to a particular research study being done in your nearby educational institute or hospital, there is one more human to compare the genomic sequence from to learn what could be different. Even if you are genetically normal, it helps a lot for researchers to compare the normal vs abnormal pattern to pinpoint on causative genes.
The third way is to do what I am doing – Be part of this mad journey of identifying these genetic patterns to understand the ‘currently incurable’ genetic diseases. There are millions of ways to contribute in this world for its betterment. If we have to beat genetic disease like cancer, we must unify our genetics to fight against itself.
– a request from a genetics professional