The Odd Questions on Genetics and Inheritance I Get on Quora
I started the Maeflowers Health and Science Space on Quora not quite 18 months ago and, in that time, I’ve gotten some really strange submissions. Most of the outlandish ones get rejected as spam — others have left me faltering to explain the basics without even getting close to addressing the question because it is so outside the realm of reality.
I also get questions outside of that Space (particularly users insistent that they are infected with HIV despite negative tests, which is a concerning fixation) in which the person is trying to understand something, I attempt to help the best I can without getting frustrated. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are simply misinformed or misunderstanding something, but I can’t shake that some of the questions are really out there or that I’m being trolled.
Here are some common themes I see in the genetics questions that could legitimately be issues with understanding.
Problems with Definitions
Could anyone have Down Syndrome with enough genetic changes at conception?
No — Down Syndrome is Trisomy 21.
This is a very specific term for a specific chromosomal makeup. It isn’t just “genetic changes”. I think this may be a misunderstanding of how the terminology is used.
Can you have similar characteristics as Down Syndrome with other genetic anomalies? Yes, but it isn’t Down Syndrome.
For someone without a medical background, they likely see the symptoms and equate them with the disorder. But this isn’t how that (always) works — because, of course, we aren’t consistent in how we name things. In this case, the name is given to the cause of the symptoms. Part of this is because genetic disorders were noted and named prior to the understanding of genetics. Now we know that it’s Trisomy 21 and other similar disorders have been lumped into other umbrellas based on their causes to help differentiate populations for treatment, prognosis estimation, and a host of other situations that hinge on that distinction.
But how could someone who’s just going through life filing other people’s taxes or servicing their cars or fixing their roof or any number of…