Introduction to Polygenic Diseases


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Polygenic means "multiple genes" and polygenic diseases are affected by many genes. In a sense, saying that a disease is polygenic almost means "not genetic". Polygenic diseases usually have a small genetic basis, often less than 10% chance of inheritance from parents. This is often described by saying that a child inherited a "genetic predisposition" to getting a disease, but will not always get the disease (unless some other trigger occurs).

Examples of polygenetic diseases: Many of the big name diseases are in this class of diseases including cancers, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and many others. With most of these conditions, they are not regarded as being caused by genetics, nor are they directly inherited from parents. However, a family history of disease is a risk factor for the disease, indicating that there is some inherited risk in the genes. The genetics of this type of disease is an area of current research for all of the major diseases.

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