code for hemoglobin

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Sickle-cell Disease is a life-threatening haematological disorder (Ware et al., 2017) that is caused by a single point substitution in the genetic code for hemoglobin (Piel et al., 2017). This mutation swaps the amino acid Val into the position for Glu which causes the protein to fold improperly (Urry et al., 2020), thus changing the shape of the blood cell into its sickled or boomerang-like shape that the disease gets its name from. This harmful allele is extremely prevalent in many areas of Africa even though it can be deadly itself. This harmful allele is so common because of a very interesting phenomenon. In Africa, there is a significant problem with another disease, Malaria, that infects individuals after mosquito bites. Sickle-cell disease gives those inflicted by it with a resistance to Malaria. The shape of the sickled cells prevents Malaria from causing damage that it otherwise be lethal. This phenomenon is the main reason that this disease is so prevalent in many areas. Although life-threatening in itself, it protects against something that is even more deadly. Since those inflicted have a far greater chance of surviving (due to the lack of risk of Malaria), those that have sickle-cell disease survive longer than those with Malaria and thus it gets more and more common in the population.

ReferencesPiel, Steinberg, M. H., & Rees, D. C. (2017). Sickle Cell Disease. The New England Journal of Medicine376(16), 1561–1573., Russell E, Dr Prof, de Montalembert, Mariane, MD PhD, Tshilolo, Léon, Prof, & Abboud, Miguel R, Prof. (2017). Sickle cell disease. The Lancet (British Edition), 390(10091), 311–323. (Links to an external site.)Urry, L., Cain, M., Wasserman, S., Minorsky, P., & Orr, R. (2020). Modified Mastering Biology with Pearson eText — Access Card — for Campbell Biology (18-Weeks) (12th ed.) [E-book]. Pearson.

  • Sickle-cell disease is a genetic disorder that causes abnormal structure of hemoglobin molecule and interferes with its ability to transport oxygen. Although the sickle-cell disease is lethal if not treated, in some regions sickle-cell allele can reach frequencies as high as 15/20%. How can such a harmful allele be so common?
  • According to the CDC: “Sickle cell disease (SCD) affects millions of people throughout the world and is particularly common among those whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan Africa; Spanish-speaking regions in the Western Hemisphere (South America, the Caribbean, and Central America); Saudi Arabia; India; and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy”. While sickle cell anemia is a lethal and painful disease, there are still 100 million people in the world who are carriers of it. The reason behind this is because of another disease called Malaria. Malaria is a disease that is most common in tropical climates like Africa and India. Studies have shown that those who carry the Sickle Cell trait are less likely to have severe forms of malaria. This means that humans living in areas where malaria is a larger threat, have adapted to having sickle cell in order to not be killed by getting malaria.


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