Saturday, April 1, 2023

How Are Genetic Diseases That Affect the African-American Community Inherited?

March 29, 2021 by  
Filed under Health, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Since the beginning of time, people have carried disease-causing genetic mutations. These mutations can be passed down from common ancestors, resulting in various physical and developmental disabilities. 

Genetic disorders affect people of all races, but certain ethnic groups are more likely to experience specific abnormalities. Though there’s no way to prevent genetic disorders entirely, it’s possible to determine your risk of passing damaged or abnormal genes on to your offspring.

How Can I determine if I’m a Genetic Carrier?

The easiest way to determine if you’re a genetic carrier is to undergo non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). NIPT is a quick and accurate procedure that involves a simple blood draw. After collecting the sample, your primary care physician or OB/GYN sends it to a laboratory for further analysis. 

If the test determines that you’re a carrier of a genetic disorder, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll pass a genetic abnormality on to your child. Disorders that occur through an autosomal recessive pattern require two abnormal genes, one from both parents.

 

What are some genetic diseases that affect African-Americans?

There are a number of genetic diseases that commonly occur in members of the African-American community. These include: 

Sickle cell anemia

Sickle cell anemia affects more than 100,000 Americans. It causes your red blood cells to become sickle-shaped, slowing down blood flow and making it difficult to circulate oxygen throughout your body. 

You inherit sickle cell anemia through autosomal recessive inheritance. In order to inherit sickle cell anemia, you have to receive a faulty gene from both your mother and father.

Thalassemia

Thalassemia affects the way your body produces hemoglobin, a substance responsible for carrying oxygen through your blood. Over time, Thalassemia affects your body’s ability to create red blood cells, resulting in fatigue, weakness, and heart problems. 

Thalassemia is inherited through an autosomal recessive pattern. To have the condition, you must receive a faulty gene from both parents.

Hereditary ATTR Amyloidosis

Hereditary ATTR amyloidosis refers to a genetic change that affects the function of the protein transthyretin (TTR). When there’s a mutation in the TTR gene, it causes the protein to clump together and form deposits. When left untreated, these deposits increase the risk of heart failure and digestive problems. 

Hereditary ATTR amyloidosis is inherited through an autosomal dominant pattern. Everyone receives one copy of the TTR gene from each parent. If you or your partner has the abnormality, there’s a 50% chance you’ll pass it on to your baby.

What if My Baby is At Risk of a Genetic Disorder? 

If carrier testing determines that your baby is at risk of inheriting a genetic disorder, your PCP or OB/GYN can refer you to a genetic counselor. A genetic counselor can explain the results of your test in-depth and make recommendations for you and your partner. 

Staff Writer; Craig Miller


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