The Correlation Between Race and Hereditary Disease

Over the course of a few decades, many geneticists have studied the causes and methods of treating genetic diseases. In this process, some of them have found that race plays a crucial role in distinguishing genetic diseases and it was enough to attract people's attention. The debate over whether race can track human disease or not is getting more important as genetic engineering such as stem cells and gene therapy step into our reality. In the article “Race Is Seen as Real Guide To Track Roots of Disease” by Nicholas Wade, he presents that Dr. Risch of Stanford University asserts that race defined as the ethnicity of ancestry is sufficient to identify the potential genetic disease. While some doctors maintain that race is not defined as a proper concept for medical research, genetic diseases can definitely be traced by race. This essay will analyze the reasons and suggest examples supporting Dr. Risch’s opinion.

First of all, Sickle cell anemia can be a criterion for categorizing races. It is one of the most common genetic diseases in the world. It is estimated that the mutation occurred in Africa and India about 3,000 years ago as a result of the malaria epidemic. There are several ways to distinguish race among geneticists, the presence or absence of Sickle cell anemia is one of the ways to determine race. Common people have circular red blood cells, but people with sickle cell anemia have sticky, hard, and c-shaped blood cells. When these cells pass through small blood vessels, they interfere with the circulation of the blood and die quickly so that causes a lack of red blood cells. This is a genetic disorder that occurs at birth. If a child inherits one cell each from his or her parents, he or she will have Sickle Cell anemia (CDC). Sickle cell anemia was known as a genetic disease of people who have African ancestry, however, Sickle cell was rarely found from southern Africa. World Health Organization reported that sickle cell range is shown at 10% and 40% all over Africa, decreasing to 1–2% on the north African coast and less than 1% in South Africa (WHO). The reason why sickle cell anemia is rare in South Africa is related to malaria. The mutation of sickle cell anemia is the same as that of malaria-resistant mutations in South Africa, where malaria outbreaks are extremely rare. Despite sickle cell anemia was spreading in Africa by Bantu speakers 2,000 years ago, such research result shows that genetic variation has not occurred significantly in people of South African descent. This means not only genetic factors but geographical ancestry has a significant effect on race classification.

Hemochromatosis caused by iron metabolic disorder also can be identified by race. This disease, known as one of the hereditary diseases, is caused by the mutation of two genes that control blood iron concentration. People with Hemochromatosis absorb more iron than ordinary people when they eat food, and it may lead to serious organ damage, cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, diabetes, and so forth. This disease tends to be common in Caucasians, especially Swedes and is rare in Indians and Chinese. According to Dr. Acton, professor of microbiology and director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Immunogenetics Program, he claims that Asians and Pacific Islanders basically have a high iron concentration in their blood, nevertheless, hemochromatosis is not such a common disease for them because the rate of genetic mutations is lower than Caucasians with hemochromatosis. The research suggests Caucasians have the largest number of mutagenic genes of 4.4 per 100 people, while Asians had very low levels of 3.9 per 10 million. This may imply that Asians have disparate genetic variation, or for unknown reasons, they do not cause hemochromatosis regardless of their high iron blood dimensions (UAB).

Work Cited

  1. Adelman, Larry. 'RACE - The Power Of An Illusion | What Difference Makes A Difference?'. Newsreel.Org, 2003,
  2. Anie, Kofi A., et al. “Psychosocial Impact of Sickle Cell Disorder: Perspectives from a Nigerian Setting.” Globalization And Health, vol. 6, 2010, p. 2. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1186/1744-8603-6-2.
  3. Cornelius, Jerome. 'Spotlight On 'Incurable' Sickle Cell Disease | Cape Times'. IOL, 2017, Accessed 14 Feb 2019.
  4. Sickle-Cell Anemia. World Health Organization, 2006, p. 1, Accessed 14 Feb 2019.
  5. University Of Alabama At Birmingham. 'Asians, Pacific Islanders Have Highest Blood Iron Levels.' Science Daily, 2005. Accessed 11 Feb 2019.
  6. Wade, Nicholas. 'Race Is Seen As Real Guide To Track Roots Of Disease'. Nytimes.Com, 2002, Accessed 7 Feb 2019.
  7. 'What Is Sickle Cell Disease? | CDC'. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, Accessed 11 Feb 2019. 
07 July 2022
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