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Hum Mol Genet. 2002 May 15;11(10):1195-206.

Genetic modifiers of vision and hearing.

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The Jackson Laboratory, 600 Main Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609-1500, USA.


The identification of 'disease genes' and the mutations within them has greatly enhanced our understanding of normal function in the eye and ear. At the same time, it has become clear that these single-gene mutations must reside in a permissive genetic background for a disease phenotype to manifest. Segregating background genes can also modify the age of onset, rate of progression or severity of these diseases. These background genes that interact with the disease mutation and that are responsible for the specific phenotypes observed are commonly called genetic modifiers. Identification of these modifier genes may define the biological pathways that lead from the primary genetic defect to the aberrant phenotype. Once the identities of modifier genes that suppress vision or hearing loss become known, the door opens to new potential therapeutic targets, since these modifier genes may be more amenable to treatment than the primary mutant gene.

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