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Can you inherit HD from your uncle?

September 30, 2015

Huntington's Disease Youth Organization

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Can you inherit HD from your uncle?

Q. Can you inherit huntingtons disease from you uncle?

Shelby, Teen, UK

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A. Dear Shelby,

Many thanks for your email. To answer your question, we need to consider how Huntington’s disease (HD) can be passed on in a family. We all carry two copies of the HD gene, whether or not we are at risk of HD (we inherit one from each parent). An individual will develop HD when one copy of the HD gene is larger than usual (called a ‘CAG expansion’). You may find this HDYO article helpful as it describes how the gene can be passed on in families in more detail.

Whether or not you may have inherited HD will depend on whether or not your mother/father carries an HD gene expansion. If your Uncle has HD, it is likely (but not certain) that he inherited an HD gene expansion from one of his parents (your grandparents). You would only be at risk of inheriting the gene expansion if your mother/father had also inherited it from your grandparent.

I hope this makes sense, but please do not hesitate to get back to us if you have any further questions. I note that you live in St Helens, and if you wanted to meet with a genetic counsellor (who could go over your family history in more detail to give you a more accurate assessment) you could ask your GP to refer you to your local Genetics service (which would probably be the Liverpool Genetics Service). If you have any difficulty with this, please get in touch.

Best wishes