Cystic Fibrosis in Caucasians

The relationship among race, genetics, and health can be tricky to describe and evidently, a very senstitive topic as I found during my researching. I usually identify myself of Serbian ethnicity, but I could not find any credible source for a common illness among Serbs so I searched for Caucasian instead and came across a lot of controversial blogs.

Studies have found a correlation between race and genetics such as Cystic Fibrosis among whites or Sickle Cell among blacks. This does not necessarily say that one race is healthier than another. There are many factors that play into these studies including genetics, but also social lifestyle and biological determinants. As we saw in lecture with the Thrifty Genotype Hypothesis, it was not all about race for the Pima’s and Type II Diabetes. First off natural selection played a role in keeping the mutated gene alive through a famine but, since the Pima culture is to marry and stay within ones tribe, this gene is kept in a close-knit enivronment. Thus we can conclude from this that genetics influneces racial adaptations but genetics does not measure health.

Cystic Fibrosis as many of us know is a disease that affects mainly the lungs and digestive system. A thick, sticky mucus is formed and can easily block the airways and digestive tubes making breathing and digesting difficult and prolonged. An estimated 1 in 2,500 Caucasia births are affected as opposed to other races listed in this graph:

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I tapped into previous knowledge to try and think about why Caucasians would have a higher risk of this disease. All I could come up with was that maybe it was a recessive gene with no symptoms that was being passed down. I also thought about when the first Europeans came over here, maybe they developed this as a protection mechanism. Something different in the air triggered the development of thicker mucus to stop pathogens. I couldn’t think of any current social or cultural differences in Caucasian life than any other ethnicity. Of course I had to look it up to find out if reaserchers found any linking evidence. They have theorized that the cystic fibrosis gene may have aided in resistance to diseases involved in bowl inflammation such as cholera. Diarrhea and dehydration were huge problems in Europe throughout human history and caused many deaths.

Citations:

Angier, Natalie. “Cause of Cystic Fibrosis Is Traced to the Stone Age.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/06/01/us/cause-of-cystic-fibrosis-is-traced-to-the-stone-age.html (accessed July 11, 2014).

“Cystic Fibrosis.” . http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/publications/solddc-chapters/cf.pdf (accessed July 11, 2014).

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