After the mapping and sequencing of the human genome, medical professionals from essentially all specialties turned their attention to investigating the role genes play in health and disease. Until recently, medical genetics was considered a specialty of minor practical relevance. This view has changed with the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities. It is now realized that genetic disease represents an important part of medical practice. Achievements in cancer genetics, in the field of prenatal diagnostics (including carrier testing for common recessive disorders), and in newborn screening for treatable metabolic disorders reinforce the rapidly expanding role of genetics in medicine. Diagnosing a genetic disorder not only allows for disease-specific management options but also has implications for the affected individual's entire family. A working understanding of the underlying concepts of genetic disease with regard to chromosome, single gene, mitochondrial, and multifactorial disorders is necessary for today's practicing physician. Routine clinical practice in virtually all medical specialties will soon require integration of these fundamental concepts for use in accurate diagnosis and ensuring appropriate referrals for patients with genetic disease and their families.
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