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Semestre 3 Extra Credit Essay

1252 words - 6 pages

The Island of the Colorblind was written by Oliver Sacks to share his experiences in his journeys to Pingelap, Pohnpei, Guam and Rota. Oliver Sacks traveled to Pingelap and Pohnpei with his colleague, Robert Wasserman, an ophthalmologist, and Knut Nordby, a colorblind Norwegian scientist. He went there to study and experience an island where congenital achromatopsia, a severe colorblindness that is normally very rare, affects 10% of the population. They were welcomed by the people of Pingelap, especially those with achromatopsia. They were shown around the island and introduced to many of the people that lived there. Next, they traveled to Pohnpei, where they met more achromatopes. Earlier, ...view middle of the document...

Knut Nordby, Sacks’s friend has to wear multiple pairs of sunglasses and visors to protect his eyes from the bright light given off by the sun and he has to carry a magnifying glass with him to see small details. Congenital achromatopsia is caused by a recessive gene that only results in colorblindness if a person has two recessive alleles for the disease. This means that to get the disease, one’s parents must both be carriers of the recessive allele and you must get one allele from each parent. The chance of this happening is normally very small and the chance of being an achromatope is less than one in thirty-thousand in most of the world, except in Pingelap, where it is one in twelve. In 1775, a typhoon hit Pingelap, killing 98% of the population, so that only about twenty people survived. Eventually, the number of people reached its previous amount, but not without inbreeding, which is when the percentage of the recessive allele that causes congenital achromatopsia increased within the gene pool. This is called the bottleneck effect, when the size of a population is suddenly decreased and the genetic variation within that population is also decreased.
Lytico-Bodig is a disease endemic to Guam that causes ten percent of adult Chamorro deaths. (Chamorros are the native people on the island.) It causes many different symptoms in different people. Lytico is one form of the disease that is similar to ALS and Bodig is the other form of the disease. It is similar to Parkinsonism. Typically, bodig causes motionlessness in those who have it, but can also cause dementia and other symptoms. Lytico-bodig is found mostly in Chamorros, but it also affects people that lived on Guam for a long time and participated in the Chamorro’s lifestyle. Also, no one born recently has gotten the disease, suggesting that the cause of the disease has disappeared and that the disease is dying out. And, the disease seems to affect many people of the same family, but these people have different symptoms from each other. For example, Tomasa has lytico and most of her family also has the disease. “[Tomasa’s] father suffered from lytico, as did two of her sisters, while two of her brothers have parkinsonism and dementia. Out of eight children in her generation, five have been afflicted by the lytico-bodig” (Sacks 136). There are four possible causes for lytico-bodig that are being researched by scientists: cycads, a type of plant that grows on Guam, viruses, genetics, and lack of certain minerals. Cycads are widespread on Guam and were historically a main part of the diets of native people. Cycads contain many...

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