• 22Sep

    Understanding genetic disorders relating to ethnic groups

    Ethnicity refers to cultural affiliations such as religion, linguistics, even the national origin of an individual’s ancestors. Individuals who can trace their ancestry to certain geographic areas may share similar genetic traits. A genetic trait can include hair color, the presence or absence of dimples, blood type, and even the presence or absence of genetic disorders.

    How Are Genetic Disorders Passed Down?

    Sometimes, a mutated gene for a genetic disorder can be passed down through generations of families, but not everyone will develop the condition. This is because in some types of genetic disorders, two copies of the gene mutation must be inherited for the condition to occur – one from the mother and one from the father. These types of disorders are called recessive disorders.

    If an individual inherits only one copy of the genetic mutation, he/she is described as a carrier. Genetic carriers will “carry” the mutated gene with them but will not show any signs or symptoms of the associated condition. However, these individuals are still at risk of passing this gene on to their children. If someone who carries a recessive genetic mutation for a specific disease plans to have a child with an individual who also carries the same mutation, then they are at risk of having a child who will develop the genetic disorder.

    genesCommon Disorders Linked to Specific Ethnicities

    Genetic disorders can occur in individuals belonging to all ethnicities. However, certain conditions are more common among specific ethnic groups.

    Mediterranean: Thalassemia and sickle cell anemia

    Ashkenazi Jewish: Tay-Sachs and cystic fibrosis

    African American: Thalassemia, sickle cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis

    Asian: Thalassemia and cystic fibrosis

    European Caucasian: Cystic fibrosis

    Although statistical prevalence for genetic disorders for each individual group may be quite expansive, understanding that there is a tie between one’s ethnicity and certain genetic disorders is important to learning how this may affect the birth of a child with a genetic disorder.

    Is It Possible to Know if You Carry a Gene for a Certain Genetic Disorder?

    Individuals belonging to a high risk ethnic group may carry a mutated gene associated with a specific genetic disorder. If you are planning on having a child with someone who belongs to the same high-risk group, there are new testing technologies that allow you and your partner to understand your risk of having a child with a certain genetic disorder.

    Noninvasive genetic carrier testing is an option that provides information about certain genetic traits for the tested individual. Using a blood sample, scientists can analyze your genes and determine if you carry a genetic mutation associated with a certain genetic disorder. If both individuals are carriers of the same genetic condition, prenatal screening and further testing may be recommended in order provide a diagnosis.

    Learning More

    If you are interested in learning more about genetic disorders that may be more common among your ethnic group, speak with a genetic counselor. Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals who are specifically trained in medical genetics and counseling. By looking at your medical history and current health, genetic counselors can help you and your partner understand your personal risk of having a child with a certain genetic disorder. Additionally, you can get an explanation of screening and testing options that can provide you with more information regarding the health of your baby before his/her birth.

    Anna L.

    It’s all about health!
    I have academic background in drugs related Chemical Technology, as well as extensive professional experience in pharma and medical companies. My main area of interest is everyday life medicine. The goal of my articles is to give people informative answers to the questions that bother them, to dispel doubts and some common misbeliefs and also to inspire everyone to keep healthy lifestyle.

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