So, there I was minding my own business, looking for something interesting to blog about when I encountered an old friend: Methemoglobinemia. You see, in 9th grade biology I was part of a group report on this weird little hereditary disease which literally causes a person to be born with blue skin.
So, ladies and gentlemen, meet the Fugates of Kentucky. In the 1800s, Martin Fugate married a woman named Mary. A few of their children married members of the Smith family, and some of the children of this union were born blue. Now, I hear you saying “What?” Well, both Mary Fugate and someone in the Smith family were both carriers of methemoglobinemia. Now the tricky thing is that methemoglobinemia is a recessive gene, so when you combine two recessive genes…ta-dah, blue babies. So, suffice to say a few generations of inbreeding led to lots of people with a hue similar to that of the Smurfs. As, the blog “Now I Know” says:
A few children were born with met-H, a disease which causes blood to have a higher than normal level of methemoglobin, and therefore, a reduced ability to carry oxygen. In turn, those afflicted with met-H have darker looking blood and many Caucasian ones therefore also have off-colored skin, typically with a blue hue to it. And the gene pool, undisturbed, yielded generation after generation of blue-tinted people.
Surprisingly, this medical condition went undiscovered until 1958. For further information on the blue Fugates and the unusual cure for methemoglobinemia, head over to the “Now I Know” blog.