Questions for a Genetic Counselor

Use the comment form below to interact with the Genetic Counselor, Lisa Butterfield. You may ask questions specifically about the disease you are researching or more general questions about what it is like to be a genetic counselor.

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11 Responses to Questions for a Genetic Counselor

  1. Sunny H says:

    Are there any possible environmental factors/ ways to reduce the risk of getting cystic fibrosis?

    • Lisa Butterfield says:

      Since Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited disorder, a change in the code of the CFTR gene, you are either born with it or not. However, individuals with Cystic Fibrosis often take antibiotics and other treatments to reduce the damage to their lungs from recurrent infections.
      However, your question is interesting. There is a whole new field of “epigenetics”. “Epi” means above. These are proteins that sit above the genes and turn them on or off. That is why your skin cells are different from your heart cells even though they have the same genetic information. It has been shown that you can change your epigenome through environmental exposures. This may be the key to understanding disorders such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer! Great Question

  2. Lauren F. says:

    Are there any environmental factors or ways to reduce the risk of Duchenne Muscular Distrophy?

    • Lisa Butterfield says:

      Now this is an interesting question. About 1/3 of individuals who have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy inherit this condition as a result of a new mutation in either themselves or their mothers(the condition is X-linked usually only affecting men). We also know that as men age, the risk for new genetic mutations increases. This is because of exposures over their lifetime to circumstances or substances that might cause mutations in their genetic material. (This is also most often how cancer occurs and why it is more common in older rather than younger individuals). So are there ways to reduce the risk of DMD and avoid changes in our genetic material? Avoid mutagenic exposures, such as X-rays, certain drugs and a healthy lifestyle! However, given the rarity of these new mutations, we have no data to tell us the effectiveness of such behavior. Hope this answers the question!

      • Lisa Butterfield says:

        Just one clarification to the comment I made above. When I stated that as men age the risk for a new genetic mutation increases, this is a risk to their offspring, not themselves! You cannot aquire Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy by lifetime exposures, you are either born with it or not.

  3. Sirat G. says:

    In your experience, do individuals who know they are at risk of a genetic disease such as Huntington’s tend to go through predictive testing to plan out their future accordingly? Do you think the opportunity to know through testing is to one’s advantage?

    • Lisa Butterfield says:

      Wow! This is a tough question. Some people want the infomation. They want to be able to decide about things like having children or a career. They may also want to prepare for a time when they may be dependent on others for care. Other individuals wish to live their lives without this information. They feel that this knowledge would prevent them from living fully now knowing that they will develop symptoms sometime in the future. In my experience, many more individuals choose not to have testing. Your question was whether I think the OPPORTUNITY to have testing is to one’s advantage. I think the availablity of testing is a good thing. Whether you undergo testing is a very INDIVIDUAL choice.

  4. Sirat G. says:

    Thanks, I appreciate it!

  5. Lisa Butterfield says:

    Hope you have enjoyed this genetics module as much as I have. I also hope you will consider genetics as a possible career choice! Good Luck…see you in the future!

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