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A carrier is a person who can pass an inherited (genetic) disease
on to his or her children but who does not have the disease. The person can also
pass on carrier status.
Some diseases are caused by defects in a person's chromosomes or genes. Each person inherits 23 chromosomes from each parent and so has 23
pairs of chromosomes. One or both of the chromosomes in a pair may be damaged
or defective in a way that causes an inherited (genetic) disease.
The chromosomes are made up of genes. A gene is a portion of DNA that controls or helps control one trait, such as eye color or hair texture. A change in a gene can cause a genetic disease. In some cases the same gene on both chromosomes in a pair must be defective for the
person to have the disease. This is known as an autosomal recessive disease.
If only one of the genes in the pair is
affected, the person is a carrier.
Some genetic disorders are caused by defects in the X or Y chromosome. These chromosomes
determine a person's sex.
Current as of:
February 24, 2016
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Siobhan M. Dolan, MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics
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