What it Means to be a Genetic Carrier
Did you know we have over 20,000 genes that tell our cells what to do? Of the 20,000, genetic testing technology is getting better at finding those that function well and those that don’t. But, in the absence of technology, most people who have one of these non-functioning genes never know it. That’s because genes act in pairs, where one gene that works correctly compensates for its match that does not. As a result, these people remain healthy.
As you know, a person inherits genes from his/her biological parents. One complete set comes from the mother, and the matching set comes from the father. If one of these two genes in the pair is not functioning correctly, the person would be defined as a “genetic carrier.” But, that person certainly wouldn’t be an anomaly as a genetic carrier. Everyone is expected to be a genetic carrier for several genetic conditions, out of a total of the 20,000 possibilities. None of us has perfect genetic makeup.
We are now able to test for hundreds of genetic conditions thanks to recent advances in expanded genetic testing. For those of us who elect to have the testing, we have an almost 70% chance of finding out we are a healthy genetic carrier for at least one genetic condition. Being a genetic carrier is considered a normal part of being human.
As you plan to become a parent, you should be mindful of these findings. You want your children to be healthy. You must, therefore, manage whatever risks you can toward that goal. One powerful way you can do that is by knowing the partner or sperm source is not a genetic carrier for the same genetic condition as the egg donor. Fairfax EggBank facilitates this information gathering for you through GenPanel+, a program featuring donors who have been tested for an expanded list of genetic conditions. Not only will you have even more genetic information on GenPanel+ donors, but you’ll also have assurance we have a robust process in place to help you assess whether a donor is a suitable match.
Only when both are genetic carriers for the same genetic condition will offspring be at risk. By the numbers alone, this rarely occurs. But genetic testing goes a long way to give you reassurance. And being a parent to a healthy child is the ultimate success.
About the Author, Suzanne Seitz, MS MPA – Certified Genetic Counselor at Fairfax EggBank
Suzanne is a certified genetic counselor at Fairfax EggBank and Fairfax Cryobank. She is a graduate of the genetic counseling program at Sarah Lawrence College with an MS in Human Genetics. Suzanne also has a Masters in Public Administration with a focus on health care from the University of Colorado. She has her board certification from the American Board of Medical Genetics and the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Her experience includes working as a genetic counselor at Columbus Children’s Hospital, Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs and the Genetics & IVF Institute. She has extensive experience in both pediatric and prenatal services.