Objective: To review the growing impact of molecular biology and genetics on clinical endocrinology. Methods: Medical literature, databases, and Web sites describing genetics and genomic medicine with relevance for clinical endocrinology were reviewed. Results: Many monogenic disorders can now be explained at the molecular level and the diagnosis can be established through mutational analysis. The ability to establish a molecular diagnosis is relevant for carrier detection and genetic counseling. In contrast to the significant advances in monogenic disorders, the current knowledge about the genetic components contributing to the pathogenesis of complex disorders is still relatively modest and is a major focus of current research efforts. Molecular biology already has an important impact on therapy in endocrine disorders. A broad spectrum of recombinant peptides and proteins are used in daily practice, eg, insulin and insulin analogues. Moreover, the increasingly detailed understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of cancer is leading to the development of novel and more specific inhibitors. While genetic testing has many advantages, it is important that physicians and patients are aware of potential limitations. They include, among others, technical limitations and allelic and nonallelic heterogeneity. These limitations need to be discussed in detail with patients and relatives, and it is often useful to involve a genetic counselor before obtaining informed consent by the individuals undergoing testing. Conclusion: Molecular biology and genetics play an increasingly important role for the diagnosis and therapy of endocrine disorders. Challenges for the future include the elucidation of the genetic components contributing to complex disorders, eg, diabetes mellitus type 2, and the development of cheaper and comprehensive DNA sequencing technologies. Lastly, it is important that there is continuing attention directed towards the ethical, social, and legal aspects surrounding genetic medicine.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism