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Survival Of The Sickest Essay

2297 words - 10 pages

I have decided to write about four conditions, three of which are detailed in “Survival of the Sickest”, a book written by Dr. Sharon Moalem about how genetic diseases may have evolved to help the human race survive in the past. The diseases which I chose are Hemochromatosis, Diabetes, Transposons, and Sickle cell anemia. I decided to write about hemochromatosis because of how it affects the body by overloading the body with iron, how it evolved in Vikings to minimize iron deficiencies, and how it spread across the population as the Vikings began inbreeding as they colonized Europe. I chose to write about diabetes because of how it may have evolved to prevent blood from freezing during ...view middle of the document...

Phlebotomy, which is also known as bloodletting, proved to be a truly-helpful treatment for hemochromatosis because of the draining of excess iron from the body along with the blood. Hemochromatosis would kill a person with the disease in 40 years if left untreated, but it may have been beneficial to us in history. Hemochromatosis may have actually helped people survive the Bubonic Plague due to the pattern of distribution of excess iron - the macrophages of our immune system were deprived of iron, which the Plague bacterium would feed off of. Dr. Eugene Weinberg, a professor at Indiana University, had discovered that certain bacteria would use iron as “booster fuel” in order to reproduce. Hemochromatosis locks away all of the iron in the body, like the human body naturally does, but it prevents iron from being absorbed by macrophages. It is likely that hemochromatosis evolved within the Vikings, who lived in the frigid environment of Scandinavia and Northern Europe, as a method of “minimizing iron deficiencies in poorly nourished people living in harsh environments”. Hemochromatosis symptoms were subdued in Viking males by their warrior culture, for the bloodshed in combat allows the excess iron to be released. Viking women also subdued the disease during the menstrual cycle, which normally deposits a high amount of iron and may cause anemia in women without hemochromatosis. The commonality of the hemochromatosis gene amongst people of Western European descent is explained through the colonization of Europe by the Vikings. The Founder Effect is the spreading of common genes through the inbreeding of a group of colonists. When the Vikings colonized Western Europe, they began inbreeding. The offspring of these colonists carried the hemochromatosis gene, who eventually spread that gene from generation to generation, eventually spreading the gene across much of the population of Europe. I find hemochromatosis to be very interesting. It shows me how something which evolved to help us survive can become a disease as the world, and society, change. Knowing that I am of European descent, I have started thinking about my genetic makeup and what I am at a risk for developing. With that being said, hemochromatosis gives me a step into a new field which I have only started to tap into. I want to know what our genes say about who we are and what we will become.
Diabetes mellitus, or simply diabetes, is a disease which inhibits the natural ability of the pancreas to produce insulin, a chemical which regulates the production of sugar, allowing for sugar to flow through the bloodstream and throughout the body. Diabetes affects the entire body, with the pancreas being the most-affected organ. The most common symptoms of Diabetes mellitus are high blood sugar and excessive urination. Diabetes was diagnosed in ancient civilizations (such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, and China) by the passage of “large amounts of sugary urine”. Considering that the disease was...

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