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Abstract: The mechanisms responsible for the determination of phenotypes are still not well understood; however, it has become apparent that modifier genes must play a considerable role in the phenotypic heterogeneity of Mendelian disorders. Significant advances in genetic technologies and molecular medicine allow huge amounts of information to be generated from individual samples within a reasonable time frame. This review focuses on the role of modifier genes using the example of cystic fibrosis, the most common lethal autosomal recessive disorder in the white population, and discusses the advantages and limitations of candidate gene approaches versus genome-wide association studies. Moreover, the implications of modifier gene research for other monogenic disorders, as well as its significance for diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic approaches are summarized. Increasing insight into modifying mechanisms opens up new perspectives, dispelling the idea of genetic disorders being caused by one single gene.
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