HFE & MODERN-DAY BLOODLETTING
[Originally published on BioGPS's Gene-of-the-Week Series on April 2, 2014.]
Armed with leeches, scalpels, and scarificators, medical practitioners (and their patients) once trusted bloodletting as a valid, sensible remedy for common ailments. In the time before “germs” existed, physicians thought that disease derived from an imbalance of certain bodily fluids—including blood. Today, belief in this theory of “body humors”, and the consequent use of bloodletting as a restorative cure-all (Got a headache? Put a leech on it!), is largely dismissed as an ill-conceived, archaic practice. Even so, early doctors weren’t totally wrong; bloodletting is still considered a legitimate medical treatment for specific conditions—most notably, hemochromatosis.