Mendelian inheritance refers to patterns of inheritance that are characteristic of organisms that reproduce sexually. The Austrian monk Gregor Mendel performed thousands of crosses with garden peas at his monastery during the middle of the 19th century. Mendel explained his results by describing two laws of inheritance that introduced the idea of dominant and recessive genes.
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Mendelian inheritance refers to the kind of inheritance you can understand more simply as the consequence of a single gene. So in human genetics, for instance, when you look at a condition like Huntington's disease, and you see that it follows this pattern where an affected person who passes that to a child, the child has a 50 percent chance of being infected... That's dominant Mendelian inheritance. Hemophilia, where you see a condition where the female seems to be unaffected but there's X-linked inheritance, that's also Mendelian. Or cystic fibrosis, where it's autosomal recessive, you can model that also by Mendel's rules of the consequence of a single gene.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health; Former Director, National Human Genome Research Institute
Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, is noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his visionary leadership of the Human Genome Project, a complex multidisciplinary scientific enterprise directed at mapping and sequencing human DNA. Dr. Collins was the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute from 1993 to 2008. His research has led to the identification of genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes and the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington's disease and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome. In 2007, Dr. Collins received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil award, for his revolutionary contributions to genetic research.