Environment influences genetic diseases

February 19, 2005

While the popular media has sold the idea that DNA is the only factor in genetic diseases, environment actually plays a large role, according to Lowell Goldsmith, M.D., University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

While the popular media has sold the idea that DNA is the only factor in genetic diseases, environment actually plays a large role, according to Lowell Goldsmith, M.D., University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Dr. Goldsmith's emphasis on environment may ruffle feathers, but he believes it's a concept whose time has come.

"I'm talking about the etiologies of etiologies - the causes of cause. I take a model from epidemiology, where we're concerned about the host, the environment and vectors. We must expand our concept of disease because this gives us whole new ways of treating disease," he says.

One example of simple genetic diseases wherein environment plays a role include dermatitis herpetiformis, a disease impacted by wheat gluten.