Is Degenerative Disease Hereditary?

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

This lesson is going to discuss what a degenerative disease is and give examples of different degenerative diseases. We will also discuss whether they are hereditary or caused by other factors.

What Is Degenerative Disease?

You generate money and your bills degenerate your money
Picture of money bags

Why do you work? The answer to this question for most people is that they work to generate income. In other words, they work to create or make income. The next question is; why do you need to generate income? The answer to this question is probably because you have responsibilities that are going to take away, or degenerate, the money you generated.

This system of making and taking away, or losing, can also occur in the body. During the process of fetal development, every structure in the body is generated meaning that it is created and it grows. The instructions for generation come from the genes that are inherited.

There are some instances when people develop degenerative diseases which are diseases that take away, or cause the loss of, part or all of certain structures in the body. Many different degenerative diseases exist such as osteoarthritis, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and Huntington's disease.

Is Degenerative Disease Hereditary?

The question that many scientists, doctors, and other healthcare workers have asked for years is, what causes degenerative disease? Unfortunately, we don't have an answer to that question yet. The first line of thought behind a possible cause had to do with determining if any of the degenerative diseases are caused by microorganisms. Research has not produced any evidence of degenerative diseases being caused by microorganisms.

Some degenerative diseases are hereditary
Picture of DNA

The next logical line of thought is that degenerative diseases could be hereditary, meaning they are passed to children from their parents through genes. There has been a lot of research looking into this possibility. What has been determined is that each degenerative disease must be looked at individually in order to determine if it is caused genetically or not.

Huntington's disease, some types of cancer such as breast and prostate, and muscular dystrophy have all been confirmed to be hereditary. Scientists have been able to discover genes that are directly related to the development of these particular diseases. There is a mutation that occurs in most of these genes that leads to the development of the degenerative diseases.

There has not been as much success with identifying specific genes that are responsible for causing most of the other degenerative diseases. Studies performed on families have shown that most degenerative diseases appear to run through families. The conclusions from these studies suggest that other degenerative diseases are also hereditary. This is the case for Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and heart disease.

Environmental Factors and Degenerative Disease

Another possible explanation exists for why certain degenerative diseases seem to run through some families and not through others, and it has nothing at all to do with genes or heredity. It is possible that there could be some family traditions, practices, habits, or environmental factors that cause the development of degenerative diseases. Most families tend to do the same things and live in the same area, or types of areas, generation after generation.

Smoking cigarettes tends to be generational and could cause degenerative diseases
Picture of a cigarette

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