The New Stuff

Natural selection vs. medical technology: are we winning?


“We know that cancer is due to three main factors: the environment — things like smoking, environmental factors; those that are genetically inherited; and then the third factor is just pure chance. And the pure chance is due to our cells and our tissues that divide. And some tissues divide very frequently. Every time you have a division, there is a small possibility that a mutation will occur in our DNA. And if it happens in the wrong gene, this may take us to cancer. So what this study did — we analyzed: What is the role of bad luck among all the components? And it turns out that it plays a key role. It’s responsible for what we estimate to be two-thirds of the variation of cancer risk across tissues in humans.” – Cristian Tomasetti, biomathematician about their recent study.

But, people like me do not believe in luck. So, could it be some undiscovered or uncalculated environmental factors? Cause, everyone else blames cigarette, processed food, brunt food, plastic, pesticide and preservative as the main sources of the mutation for a reason, right?

If, oncologist Dr. Bert Vogelstein and biomathematician Cristian Tomasetti are so sure that two-thirds of cancer occurred due to random DNA mutations during their study then probably these two-thirds has nothing to do with life style. Because, environmental factors are predictable and traceable in controlled study, but, tracing genetic signature after several hierarchy is nearly impossible.

Every time a species reproduces, the DNA code changes a bit. It is a risk that nature takes for the sake of betterment. But, not every time change work in favor. These rolls of dice often produce faulty genes. Nature has its own way to stop faulty genes from continuation; the natural selection.

But, the advancement of medical science has beaten the natural selection or is it? Now, all the people have genetic diseases like cancer, heart diseases, diabetic etc. are not dying anymore. Consequences are the faulty genes are being spread exponentially.

One of my acquaintances had hemoglobin-e disease same as me. When he married, didn’t bother to test blood of his bride. Irony of fate was the wife had the same genetic disease. There is one in three chances to child to develop thalassemia if both the parents have the disease. Hemoglobin-e disease or e-trait is not life threatening. There are no side effects except hemoglobin count in blood stays slightly lower than standard. My acquaintance was unlucky all the way. When doctor detected thalassemia in his daughter’s blood, the girl was only 3 years old. My acquaintance lost everything trying to keep her alive for a year. I and other e-trait patients however, got either lucky or conscious. But, my family line will continue to bare this disease.

But, how these are affecting the stance of human as species? Are we threatening the very existence of human kind?

You see, genetic diseases can be prevented by prediction and disciplined life style. Potential patients are no threat to human kind. But, the disciplined life may result in better management of resources on earth. Like, I am seeing how much my father is suffering from diabetics. From the very childhood, I eat crabs sparingly. Many other potential diabetic patients already doing the same and more will follow.

In near future, almost all people prone to diabetic will consume less grains, prone to heart disease will eat less meat and prone to cancer will eat less fruits and vegetables.

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