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Genetics - Does It Really Matter?

A recent Wall Street Journal article (Nov. 4, 2005, B1 "Linking DNA Profiles to Diseases May Not Lead to Prevention" by Sharon Begley) made a startling point: DNA may not be the cause of disease. We've all been told that your DNA is the "cause" of certain diseases. But a recent review by Prof. Irving Gottesman of the University of Minnesota in the journal Human Molecular Genetics casts serious doubt on the 'DNA causes disease' theory.

The review concerns identical twins (who, as we know, have identical DNA). What Prof. Gottesman found is quite intriguing. Schizophrenia, often thought to be caused by DNA, is only 50% 'concordant'. In other words, in only half of the twin pairs does the second twin have the disease if the first one does. To put it another way, out of 100 pairs of twins, where at least one twin has schizophrenia, in only half of the pairs of twins do both twins have the disease. In the other 50 pairs of twins, only 1 out of the 2 twins has schizophrenia. This is startling news.

What does this mean? We are not the Newtonian machines that many scientists think we are. The common thought among geneticists is that the human body is built like a car. If you put faulty wiring in a car, the windows won't roll up.

However, what this study proves is one of two things:
One, either DNA isn't the cause of these diseases.
Or two, faulty DNA does not have to lead to a faulty human body.

In other words, the body can overcome 'bad' DNA, just like it overcomes the common cold.

What's not often talked about is that scientists have never really gotten to the bottom of DNA. They've found specific DNA anomalies that 'tend' to occur in most patients with certain diseases. But they've failed to check if these DNA anomalies also exist in healthy people. What this study has shown is that these DNA anomalies DO exist in healthy people and haven't caused them to get sick.

We've been led to believe that we're doomed if we have faulty DNA. What this study shows is that this myth is flat out not true. DNA does not have the power we've been led to believe it has. If it did, then if one twin had a supposed 'DNA disease', then in 100% of the cases, so would the other twin. Multiple sclerosis only had a 25% concordant rate. In other words, in 75% of twins, only one twin had the disease; the other twin was perfectly healthy.

Why didn't both twins get these diseases? Scientists don't know, but one thing is for sure. DNA does not have the power that we once thought it had. Prof. Gottesman notes that scientists sometimes have blind spots that prevent them from seeing the truth. The belief that certain DNA sequence anomalies cause disease "may be one such blind spot among geneticists."

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Source: www.isnare.com