November 1, 2012
The Importance of Genetic Propensity for Disease
In this new modern world, it is common to believe that there is a cure out there for everything. Treatments for cancer are getting better every year, and the methods for delivering insulin to Diabetes patients has become more refined and precise. However, these are all focused on cures, and very little attention is spent on prevention. The main reason for this is that the exact causes of these diseases are not completely clear. The ways a person interacts with their environment has an obvious effect on what they have a higher likelihood of contracting. It is more likely, for example, for an obese person to develop Diabetes than it is for a fit person. However, the fact remains that there are obese people with an extremely small chance to contract Diabetes, while people who are physically fit their entire lives contract it despite their health. The reason for this is genetic predisposition. Essentially, while there are clear environmental issues that factor into diseases, research has shown that there are genes in every person that determines their capability to obtain certain diseases. Genetic predisposition is a very difficult thing to prove conclusively, unfortunately. The sheer number of different gene formations that can lead to a small increase in the chance to contract one disease or another is staggering. While there is an undeniable influence that genetic predisposition has on a person’s chances of contracting a disease, their chances of contraction can be lowered by using the environment to their advantage.
One of the most common diseases for research on genetic predisposition is Diabetes. This is partly due, according to researcher Kenneth L. Jones, to the rapidly increasing occurrences of type 2 Diabetes in children (1). One of the most worrying factors is how quickly this disease has become widespread over the past few decades. In fact, Jones makes the connection that, “prevalence is rapidly increasing and is coincident with the international epidemic of obesity in the young” (1). This shared increased prevalence makes it extremely easy to write off Diabetes as merely a product of obesity, but it doesn’t appear to be that clear cut. Surveys of Diabetes patients in the UK show that the frequency of Diabetes changes wildly between different ethnicities, such as South Asians having as much as 4 times the likelihood of contracting the disease as Europeans in the same area (Jones 2).
There are many other diseases that are also extremely common subjects for research on genetic predisposition. One such case is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), which is an extremely common disease that results in a buildup of plaque in a person’s arteries. This disease is especially prevalent in older men, and is a leading cause of death in the U.S. (Coronary 1). This disease, and others, makes research on the causes a very important part of modern medicine. The main problem with genetics research is how complex the underlying genetics is. In fact, Jones says that, “Gestational Diabetes certainly increases the incidence of Diabetes in offspring, but the mechanism is not clear and decreasing gestational Diabetes requires obesity prevention or reduction” (2). So while we do have indirect ways of reducing the chances of Diabetes, there is currently no method to prevent Diabetes on a genetic level. If a person has the propensity for Diabetes, they have to live with that propensity, and be careful to avoid contracting the disease for their entire life. Doing more research on Diabetes is also much more difficult than it initially sounds. The large amount of inherent bias that is extremely prevalent in Diabetes studies mean that most research on the topic is extremely flawed and This issue of preventing Diabetes from occurring has been a goal of many scientists for many years now. Doctor Pamela Fain, for example, has been working...