by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted June 26, 2007 in DNA and Disease
We need gene therapy for a peaceful world. A world without fear, sadness, shame, anger, and hate. A world of equilibrium. A world of
happy shiny shiny happy people.
I’m out of it.
I didn’t know what else to think after reading about a recent study showing that girls with a particular variation of the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene are more prone to developing alcoholism later in life after experiencing childhood sexual abuse. The MAOA gene that results in lower enzymatic activity has already been associated with behavior problems in “maltreated boys” and was also implicated in this study. No such association between the MAOA gene, alcoholism, and antisocial behavior were found in women who had not been abused.
Study participants were American Indian women who, as a group, are six times more likely to develop alcoholism and antisocial personality disorder than the average US woman. And, half of American Indian women report childhood sexual abuse as compared to 13% in the US population. Can it get any more depressing than this? And what are we supposed to do with results like these?
Clearly, my tongue-in-cheek suggestion of soul and mind-numbing gene therapy is totally inappropriate. But I ask you, so what if genes predispose abused women to alcoholism? We need to focus not on genes but on STOPPING CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE. Then, we can talk about alcoholism and anti-social behavior and perhaps targeting genes that increase a person’s susceptibility. But STOPPING CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE would go a long long way.
The MAOA gene has also been linked to violent behavior. All men belonging to a family in the Netherlands harboring this mutation were arsonists and rapists. And, mice without an MAOA gene have been found to be excessively aggressive. Low-expression of the MAOA gene is linked to violent tendencies.
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and DNA analysis, 142 healthy men and women, who had no history of violence, were shown pictures of angry and fearful faces. Researchers found:
- Those with the low-expressing version of MAOA were more impulsive.
- People with low-expressing MAOA had different brain size and activity.
- Activity of those parts of the brain in males with low-expression MAOA differed more greatly than their female counterparts.
What do you think? Should these findings indicate gene therapy for the toughest members of our criminal society? Ethically speaking, it could be almost as bad as eugenics. Thereâ€™s a fine line to walk between safety and freedom.
NB: The MAOA gene has also been linked to novelty seeking and reward dependence.
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