Nutritional Immunology

How do genetic disorders come about?

Fact: Genetic disorders are not always inherited. A child may have a genetic disorder that his parents do not have! How is this possible? Thanks to scientists, we now have answers.

What are genes?

A gene is a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequence that instructs a cell to make proteins, the building blocks of life. Genes are like computer commands: different genes tell cells to produce different proteins. There are 25,000 to 35,000 genes in the nucleus of every cell in the body, and they contain even more information than a dictionary!

All humans have the same basic set of genes. Half of a person’s genes are inherited from his father and the other half from his mother. They are attached to X and Y chromosomes. Females have two X chromosomes, while males have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome.

However, the story of our genes does not end there.  

Genes, Mutated

Genes can mutate—they may be copied wrongly when cells regenerate. When this happens, a gene’s DNA sequence is permanently altered. Mutated genes can lead to genetic disorders, which may be inherited. One example is color blindness, which is gender oriented. A girl would need one X chromosome with the mutated gene from each of her parents to be color blind, while a boy would be color blind as long as one of his parents passes him the faulty gene, making males more susceptible to the condition. In some cases, color blindness manifests in none of the parents, but one or both are carriers of the faulty gene.

The protein that a mutated gene produces ceases to carry out its normal function. Some mutations result in little effect while others can result in severe medical conditions, depending on the genes that have been mutated. Also, combinations of mutations can also make people susceptible to certain conditions. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in March 2008, a group of scientists from the Hospital for Sick Children, the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto and Université de Montréal found a combination of two genetic mutations that worsen lung disease in children with cystic fibrosis, a disease causing mucus to be thick and sticky.

Genes can be mutated in an egg or sperm cell or after conception. They can also be mutated during a lifetime. Little wonder then, that genetic diseases may not be inherited.

The Future of Humanity

Genetic disorders can only be cured by eliminating the root of the problem—faulty genes. Thankfully, scientists are now looking into gene therapy to correct faulty genes. There is now hope for people with genetic disorders like severe combined immunodeficiency and even those with medical conditions such as cancer and AIDS. With the advancement of science, we will be able to understand more about genes, how they work and how to cure genetic disorders. Humanity is ever moving closer to the vision of a disease-free world.

Does this mean that there is nothing that can be done before cures for genetic disorders are found? Is there any way to protect ourselves against disease?

Research indicates that diet and medicine cannot cure genetic disorders, but they can help to prevent them or alleviate the symptoms. Scientists suggest eating foods rich in B vitamins, such as garlic, onions, beets, wholegrains, legumes, drupes (fleshy fruits with a single seed), green vegetables, and dark, leafy vegetables. Eat plenty of dark green vegetables, potatoes, carrots, pumpkins and legumes. They are rich in folic acid, which can be very beneficial for DNA sequences.

With a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, regular exercise and other healthy habits, you can take control of your health. Now that you know that genetic diseases may not be hereditary, take action to help yourself and your loved ones to protect genes for a healthy, happy future!

What is your risk of disease?

1. Do you smoke or drink alcohol?
2. Do you eat out everyday, consuming meat and fish at every meal?
3. Do you have a habit of eating supper less than 4 hours before sleeping?
4. Do you sleep after 11pm?
5. Are you apple-shaped and have a protruding tummy?
6. Do you drink at least 1 cup of high-sugar, creamed beverage every day?
7. Do you often sit for one or two hours without getting up?
8. Do you only drink water when you are thirsty?
9. Do you stop to rest only when you are exhausted?
10. Do you sleep only when you cannot keep your eyes open anymore?
11. Do you have a slim and fit figure?
12. When you wake up every morning, can you get up immediately feeling refreshed?
13. When you are angry about something, does your anger dissipate within 24 hours?
14. Do you eat a large variety of fruits and vegetables?
15. Do you chew your food well before swallowing?
16. Do you travel often or gather with friends for a good time?
17. Do you drink at least 250ml of warm water after waking up every morning?
18. Do you drink more water than soft drinks, coffee and other beverages?
19. Do you exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes, at least 3 times a week?
20. Do you allocate time for relaxation and self-enrichment daily?

Answer the above questions honestly, according to your daily habits. For every “Yes” answer for questions 1 to 10, deduct 1 point. For every “Yes” answer for questions 11 to 20, add 1 point. If you have a high score, congratulations! You lead a healthy life that puts you in good stead in preventing disease!

References:

1. Starr, Barry. Ask a Geneticist. http://www.thetech.org/genetics/ask.php?id=80
2. Dorfman R, et al. Complex two-gene modulation of lung disease severity in children with cystic fibrosis. J Clin Invest. 2008 Mar;118(3):1040-9.
3. Human Genome Project. http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/home.shtml

Article Source from E.Excel website.

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7 Responses to “How do genetic disorders come about?”

  1. The info provide is avery useful one . I wish to create awareness among the Indian population.

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