Spinal Muscular Atrophy in Caucasians

 According to the online “Journal of Medicine and Life,” spinal muscular atrophy is the “second most common lethal autosomal recessive disorder in Caucasians.” Spinal muscular atrophy is a group of related diseases that affect neurons in the spinal cord and brain stem. Death, or even decline, in these motor neurons leads to improper functions of muscle cells, and weakness in those who have SMA (Leshner, R.T). Paralysis, respiratory illnesses, and death are also possibilities associated with the condition. SMA is “an autosomal recessive disease, caused by a deletion or mutation in the Survival Motor Neuron 1 (SMN1) gene.” This makes SMA a genetic disorder that is passed on from parent to offspring. With one copy of the abnormal gene, a person will just be a carrier of the disease, not a victim. In order to fully express the disease, a person must have two copies of the abnormal gene. I can not really say why SMA is so prevalent among Caucasians, but perhaps the mutations occur more often in Caucasians, or originated in Caucasians, making them more susceptible to either inherit or pass on the condition.

Chance of Being an SMA Carrier Based on Broad Ethnic Groups in the US:

Ethnic Group

Carrier Risk

Any (general population)

About 1 in 50


1 in 35

Ashkenazi Jewish

1 in 41


1 in 53

African American

1 in 66


1 in 117

This chart shows the chances of being a carrier of SMA based on ethnicity. I could not find a chart or graph comparing ehtnic groups of those who actually had SMA. This is taken from the “Spinal Muscular Atrophy Carrier Testing” website.


The relationship between race, genetics, and health is very controversial and undefined. Although there can be correlations between race and occurrence of certain diseases/ conditions, the lecture tells us that there is no biologically defined races, and race is not representative of genetics. Many diseases are passed on genetically, but health can also be affected by environmental and socioeconomic factors.


“About SMA: Overview.” SMA Foundation. Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation, 2012. Web. 10 July 2012.

Leshner, Robert T. “What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy? (SMA).” fightsma. Spinal Muscular Atrophy, 2012. Web. 10 July 2012.

“Spinal Muscular Atrophy Carrier Testing.” El Camino Hospital: DNA Direct. Medco Health Solutions Inc, 2011. Web. 10 July 2012.

Stavarchi, Monica. “Spinal muscular atrophy disease: aliterature review for therapeutic strategies.” Journal of Medicine and Life. Ed. Florian Popa, Prof. University of Medicine and

Pharmacy “Carol Davila” Bucharest, 21 Jan. 2010. Web. 10 July 2012. <http://www.medandlife.ro/medandlife367.html>.





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