Genetic Disorders

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Introduction Genetic Disorders are medical conditions that are caused by an error in a person's genes. Some of them appear as a birth defect, while others do not become distinct until later in life. Genetic disorders can range from those that cause death to those that produce only mild problems, such as color blindness or an extra pinky. Scientists have distinguished more than 9,000 genetic disorders. Some are exceptionally rare while others are quite common.

Types of Genetic Disorders There are three types of genetic disorders. The first one is categorized as single-gene disorders. A second category of genetic diseases is chromosomal disorders which involves abnormalities of chromosomes in which too much or too little chromosome material is present. The third category would be the multifactorial disorders.

Single-gene disorders result from errors within an individual gene. An example of one would be Huntington's disease. This condition affects 1 in 10,000 and usually doesn't affect the person until they are 30 or 40 years old.

A person with this disease develops uncontrolled movements and may have problems with coordination, thinking, and judgment. A weakening of the nerve cells in the brain causes these symptoms and later results in death.

Another single-gene disorder is the Tay Sachs Disease. People who inherit the faulty Tay Sachs gene lack a crucial enzyme that is needed to break down fatty substances in brain and nerve cells. As a result, these substances build up in such large quantities that the central nervous system gradually stops functioning and the person dies. Symptoms usually become evident within the first six months of life, and most children die before reaching the age of four. 1 in 3,600 people of eastern European Jewish ancestry carry it.

A category of single-gene disorders known as X-linked disorders involves genes located on the...