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Huntington’s Disease: A Dismal Destiny Essay

1587 words - 6 pages

Fate. It is one of the most rudimentary philosophical debates humanity has dealt with since the creation of civilization. The debate between whether the individual has a predestined future or instead constructs their own path has argument for both sides. However, those individuals afflicted with Huntington’s disease might be more pessimistic on their views towards fate. Huntington’s is among the cruelest fates pitted for humanity because they are cursed with manipulated genetic material given to them by their parents. This genetic disease robs their individuality, intelligence, and motor skills without any hope of reversing the affliction. Those who suffer from the gene mutation lose their intellectual capacities, have uncontrollable limb spasms called chorea, and most understandably experience fits of depression and irritability. In essence, Huntington’s disease is a time bomb. When it goes off those affected by this mutation lose their past, their present, and their future.
To fully understand the fatality of being sentenced with Huntington’s, one has only to look at the human genome. Huntington’s disease is not a sickness that is transmitted through virus or bacteria. Instead, Huntington’s is caused by a mutation in the HTT gene which provides information to produce the huntingtin protein. (ghr.com, 2013, pp.5) Specifically, Huntington’s is caused by the repetition of the codon sequence CAG which codes for the amino acid glutamine. Little is known regarding what function chromosome four has when working regularly other than its close relationship with neurons. Chromosome four’s infamy comes from the overabundance of repetitions of the amino acid glutamine. In an average human being there is somewhere between 10 to 35 repetitions of CAG. Those with Huntington’s have thirty-nine or more repetitions of CAG on chromosome four. When there is an overabundance of CAG present, the production of the huntingtin protein goes haywire. The protein strands become abnormally elongated. These strands then are cut into lethal fragments which bind to neurons and eventually accumulate which interrupts normal function for neurons. (ghr.com, 2013, pp.7).When neurons stop functioning, motor skills and intelligence continue to decrease till the individual dies. As author Matt Ridley puts it, “Your destiny, your sanity and your life hang by the thread of this repetition.”(Ridley, 1999, p.55)
The severity of an individual’s Huntington’s revolves solely on the amount of repetitions of the CAG codon. If the individual has exact 39 repetitions then there is a 90 percent chance that they will suffer dementia by the age of 75 and will experience symptoms of Huntington’s as early as age 66. However, if the CAG codon is increased to 40 repetitions the individual will be enveloped in the hands of Huntington’s by age 59. (Ridley, 1999, p.56). In essence the increased presence of glutamine results in the earlier onset of Huntington’s. Individuals usually only have between...

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