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Genetic Disorders

A genetic disorder is a condition caused by abnormalities in genes or chromosomes. While some diseases, such as cancer, are due to genetic abnormalities acquired in a few cells during life, the term "genetic disease" most commonly refers to diseases present in all cells of the body and present since conception. Some genetic disorders are caused by chromosomal abnormalities due to errors in meiosis, the process which produces reproductive cells such as sperm and eggs. Examples include Down syndrome (extra chromosome 21), Turner Syndrome (45Xo) and Klinefelter's syndrome (a male with 2 X chromosomes). Other genetic changes may occur during the production of germ cells by the parent. One example is the triplet expansion repeat mutations which can cause fragile X syndrome or Huntington's disease. Defective genes may also be inherited intact from the parents. This can often happen unexpectedly when two healthy carriers of a defective recessive gene reproduce, but can also happen when the defective gene is dominant.

Currently about 4,000 genetic disorders are known, with more being discovered. Most disorders are quite rare and affect one person in every several thousands or millions. Cystic fibrosis is one of the most common genetic disorders; around 5% of the population of the United States carry at least one copy of the defective gene. Some types of recessive gene disorder confer an advantage in the heterozygous state in certain environments.[1]

Genetic diseases are typically diagnosed and treated by geneticists. Genetic counselors assist the physicians and directly counsel patients. The study of genetic diseases is a scientific discipline whose theoretical underpinning is based on population genetics.

Where genetics are the result of a single mutated gene they can be passed on to subsequent generations in several ways. Genomic imprinting and uniparental disomy, however, may affect inheritance patterns. The divisions between recessive and dominant are not "hard and fast" although the divisions between autosomal and X-linked are (related to the position of the gene). For example, achondroplasia is typically considered a dominant disorder, but children with two genes for achondroplasia have a severe skeletal disorder that achondroplasics could be viewed as carriers of. Sickle-cell anemia is also considered a recessive condition, but carriers that have it by half along with the normal gene have increased immunity to malaria in early childhood, which could be described as a related dominant condition.


The article above is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Genetic disorders".