The Genetic Code

6 May

There are two ways that a person can get XLH. They inherit it directly from a parent (as explained in the previous post) or it’s a spontaneous mutation of a gene on the “x” chromosome. All of this happens in the genetic code. I don’t know how I got XLH…it is possible that I inherited it or it could have been a spontaneous mutation on the PHEX gene of one of my “x” chromosomes. I have my doubts about that, though, since I have hardly ever done a spontaneous thing in my life. Except for to decide to start a blog.

The idea of humans having a “genetic code” is a fairly easy concept for me to grasp, because I grew up a Baptist. From an early age, I learned all the names of the books of the Bible (Old and New Testaments) in order. I was encouraged to memorize verses from the Bible and even to read the whole collection of books. Personally, though, if I had ever had children, I would not have allowed them to read several books in the Old Testament until they were old enough to go to “R-rated” movies.

One interesting Old Testament book, (well, sort of, if you like reading books of rules and regulations), is the book of Leviticus. It is the book of codes for living…and there are a lot of them. Thou shalt not eat shellfish, thou shalt not wear clothes of mixed fabrics, thou shouldn’t do this, that, or the other thing. There are some “thou shalt’s” too. But, growing up a Baptist, I mostly remember a lot of “thou shalt not’s.” Now, obviously, those of us who have Bibles, don’t have the original books of the Bible in their original languages. In fact, many stories we know from the Old Testament were passed down aurally for a long time before someone got the great idea to write them down. Writing down a good story is a good idea…I mean, have you ever heard someone tell a good joke or a good story and then forget how it ends? When you write it down, you’ve nailed down that ending for all posterity and don’t leave us all wondering what happened. So, some scribe wrote down these Levitical codes, rules and regulations for living and winning God’s favor, and then other scribes copied what he had written and later, more scribes copied what they had written and so on, until we got the Gutenberg press.

I think the genetic code is like this for those of us who have XLH: we have some “x” chromosome-scribes that very carefully copy down exactly what the parent chromosome codes are, even if it’s wrong. That would be the inherited version of XLH. Then we have some “x” chromosome-scribes who, in the middle of copying down the genetic code, fell asleep and scribbled something else (hey, I did that a few times in college) and as a result, completely changed, or mutated, the “x” chromosome, because it wrote down the wrong instructions. And forever after, if I had ever had children, the little “x” chromosome-scribes would have copied down those wrong instructions to the next little person who might get that copy. My body is following its genetic instructions very well…they just happen to be the wrong instructions, thanks to the little tiny “x” chromosome-scribe who either copied the previous code exactly, which was already a mutated code, OR made a mess himself by re-creating the code, thus altering the “x” chromosome forever.

So, here are the wrong instructions that my body has received: “Verily, verily, banjogrrl, every time thou doest ingest phosphate in thy food (which thou needest in order to activate the Vitamin D to make thy bones strong and healthy), thou shouldest waste it all out the kidneys. Thou doest not need such stuff in thy body.” (WRONG!) Result: soft bones (rickets, osteomalacia), short stature, etc.

I try to imagine what would have happened if we knew for sure that any of the scribes of the Levitical code made a mistake while making copies of the book of Leviticus. Let’s take the verses which described who is not allowed to present food offerings to God, found in Leviticus 21:18-23 (Good News Translation): “No man with any physical defects may make the offering: no one who is blind, lame, disfigured, or deformed; no one with a crippled hand or foot, no one who is a hunchback or a dwarf; no one with any eye or skin disease; and no eunuch. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any physical defects may present the food offering to me. Such a man may eat the food offered to me, both the holy food offering and the very holy food offering, but because he has a physical defect, he shall not come near the sacred curtain or approach the altar. He must not profane these holy things, because I am the LORD and I make them holy.”

This leaves out a lot of people, doesn’t it? But, since XLH, according to some medical explanations, is considered to be a form of dwarfism, then let’s think about the ban against dwarves presenting food offerings to God. What if the scribe who was taking dictation took a snooze in the middle of writing down all these very long and boring rules wrote “dwarf” when the guy who was really supposed to be disallowed was the “giant.” We already know there was a general dislike of giants, as revealed in the story of David and Goliath. Giants were evil. Scribe-guy, though, just changed the course of history by influencing people to be prejudiced against dwarves (and quite a few others) instead of giants. This explains why we have an entire culture that worships tall-ism. Studies show that tall people are more successful in life, make more money, get leadership roles, and are highly (no pun intended) revered for their tallness, in addition to being favored by God, thanks to scribe-guy who wrote “dwarf” instead of “giant.” WOW! The implications! We could have had a culture where the shorter you are, the more money you could make. Entire sports teams could be created around the shortest athletes, who would make millions of dollars every year because of their amazing feats with a round, rubber ball. Special stores for small-sized clothes, “Little and Short, Inc.” would crop up around the country to meet their clothing needs. (Stylish adult clothing in small sizes…what a concept!) Parents who are concerned that their tall children weren’t fitting in well with their peers at school would beg their pediatricians to prescribe HSYGH pills (human stunt-your-growth hormone) for their above-average height children. Amusement parks would have signs posted at the most exciting rides, “Must be shorter than this to ride.” Public bathrooms would have mirrors that short people could see themselves in, and a tall person would actually have to bend their knees to be able to see their faces in the mirrors. House construction would completely change…if you were tall, you’d actually have to request to have your steps built at ridiculously spaced heights. There would be movies where the giant feels like an outsider because he lives in a world of little people. Oh wait, we have that movie: “Elf,“ starring Will Ferrell, one of my favorite Christmas movies. Anyway, the list goes on…and on.

Way to go, scribe-guy. Bet you were a cousin to Goliath and this was your “little” way to get back at David.

© S. G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017

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3 Responses to “The Genetic Code”

  1. Jill May 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Thank you for making me smile while thinking about such important things. Great writing, Banjogrrrl.

  2. missmelissa2015 January 6, 2017 at 1:42 am #

    This is great! I also have XLH, and I just wanted to say thank you for writing this blog!!

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