Genetic Diseases Overview

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Multifactorial inheritance

Multifactorial inheritance, which is also called complex or polygenic inheritance. Multifactorial inheritance disorders are caused by a combination of environmental factors and mutations in multiple genes. For example, different genes that influencebreast cancer susceptibility have been found on chromosomes 6, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 22. Some common chronic diseases are multifactorial disorders.

Examples of multifactorial inheritance include:

Multifactorial inheritance also is associated with heritable traits such as fingerprint patterns, height, eye color, and skin color.

Chromosome abnormalities

Chromosomes, distinct structures made up of DNA and protein, are located in the nucleus of each cell. Because chromosomes are the carriers of the genetic material, abnormalities in chromosome number or structure can result in disease. Abnormalities in chromosomes typically occur due to a problem with cell division.

For example, Down syndrome (sometimes referred to as "Down's syndrome") or trisomy 21 is a common disorder that occurs when a person has three copies of chromosome 21. There are many other chromosome abnormalities including:

Diseases may also occur because of chromosomal translocation in which portions of two chromosomes are exchanged.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/21/2015
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