Sparrow, are you aware, oh?
Posted by Amaranth Rose on Dec 27, 2001 at 23:18
Re: HEY! I say again... (Sparrow)
Sorry to have let this languish, but I think you understand; I just got the Thanksgiving turkey cooked today. Overcoked, actually, I overslept, and Shasta's angry with me again. Perhaps someday I shall be delivered from the wrath of Shasta!
Anyway, I wanted to try and address this perception of yours that Science is ignoring or paying short shrift to the non-genetic causes of diseases. I'd like to take up some disease that has some obscure cause that is probably not an inborn error of metabolism. NOw, we could discuss pneumonia, I suppose, or gangrene. But I'd like to take up something near and dear to both our hearts: Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfuntion Syndrome (CFIDS). Anyone who has read "Osler's Web" will be able to pretty well follow the discussion.
When Dr. Bell and co. first started seeing sick people with an unusual set of symptoms at Incline Village, Nevada, it appeared to be an epidemic illness of immense proportions. At times, a majority of the students and teachers in the High School were all ill. The genetic diversity of this group leads one to believe that there is probably not an inherent DNA basis for this illness. AS knowledge and awareness increased, it became known that the disease occurred both in clusters and in single, isolated cases that appeared to have no connection with any other cases. It would appear IMHO that it might be possible that some individuals are remarkably suceptible while others are remarkably resistant.
Research, what little has been done, has sought to determine why some people contract the illness and others do not. In my experience, in an extended family there are two first cousins with the disease, and a number of consanguine relatives with an assortment of autoimmune diseases, including Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus Erythematosis. I'm sure you know of other family situations with equally interesting co-morbidities.
Like cancer of the colon or small cell carcinoma of the lung, CFIDS has many twists. There may be some underlying genetic basis; there equally plausibly may be some specific damage to an individual's DNA that results in the equivalent malfunction, or there may be some totally different mechanism with the same end results.
Whatever the cause, whatever the underlying enabling mechanism that allows CFIDS to develop, it is in my opinion worthy of mention that some persons with CFIDS seem to benefit from therapy with antiviral compounds such as Ampligen and alpha-amanitin (Amantadine). This would suggest that the cause may be either DNA or RNA, but not endogenous.
This leads to the question: Why are some individuals more susceptible to viruses than others? It is probably due to some biochemical difference in their bodies. MOre of this enzyme, fewer of those receptors, the list is endless, nearly. HIgher levels of RNAse and DNAse in intracellular or extracellular fluids, better recognition of self and non-self, modified receptors all lend themselves to scrutiny.
Germs mutate too. That's how we get "killer" influenza outbreaks from time to time. The germ gets some new genes and goes on a killing spree.
Diseases, whether they are infectious or "mutatious", are a result of complex interactions between causes and victims. Just as there are many different reasons for stopping at an intersection, there are many different combinations of interactions between disease cause and victim. ANd just as all those many reasons cause you to stop at an intersection, so too there will be many ways in which a person becomes ill, yet the illness will be the same. CFIDS is CFIDS, whether I got it because I came down with an overwhelmingly powerful variant of a virus or because a wussy little virus sidled up to me when my immune system was in a limited state of competency.
It isn't all DNA, at least, it isn't all HUMAN DNA. And it isn't all germs, or chemicals, or radiation, or other environmental slings and arrows. It's a complex web of multidimensional interactions. And if you tug on any one thing, you find it is inexorably connected to everything else. Just like the Earth. :-)
Hope that helps.
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