Aromatase deficiency is caused by a hormone imbalance that interrupts sexual development and maturation due to low levels of estrogen high levels of testosterone. Babies born as genetically female (they have two X chromosomes) are usually born with genitals that do not appear clearly female or male (known as ambiguous genitalia). Their reproductive organs are typically normal, but patients may develop ovarian cysts in childhood; during their teenage years, breast growth and periods can be impacted. Males may have small or undescended testes and are not usually diagnosed during childhood. Males may also have a decreased sex drive, abnormal sperm production, infertility, or bone weakness.
As humans we have about 23,000 genes. These genes are like tiny instruction manuals that influence our health, growth and development. We inherit half of our genes from our biological mum and the other half from our biological dad. These genes are lined up on structures called chromosomes. Most of us have 23 pairs of chromosomes. The first 22 pairs are called autosomes and for the most part - these are the same among men and women. The 23rd pair determine our sex - two X chromosomes for a female and one X and one Y chromosome for males.
Aromatase deficiency is known as an autosomal recessive condition. For autosomal recessive conditions, if a person has a variation in one copy of their gene, they are a carrier. This means that they are healthy because they also have a working copy of the gene. But, they can still pass their non-working copy to their child.
If the other parent also happens to be a carrier of the same gene, there is a 25% (1 in 4) chance that they both pass this gene variation on to their child — and as such, have a child affected by the condition.
If both parents are carriers of Aromatase deficiency, there's a one in four chance that their children could develop symptoms.
Carrier testing is like a checkup for your genes. It tests to see if you carry a gene variation that could cause a serious genetic condition in your child. Eugene offers an inclusive genetic carrier screening panel that includes Aromatase deficiency, but there's a total 301 conditions that can be tested.
Eugene's carrier test is a clinical grade test that can be done from the comfort of your own home — it's just a saliva test. You're also paired with a genetic counsellor who provides mindful support and guidance every step of the way.Learn more about carrier screening
The biggest benefit of screening for Aromatase deficiency is that it can help future parents understand their reproductive risk so they can be ready and empowered to make more informed decisions. If neither partner are carriers, it provides reassurance and peace of mind that the risk of having a child with a genetic condition is low.
Since 90% of children that have a recessive genetic condition like Aromatase deficiency had no previous family history of it, it often feels completely out of the blue for the parents. Getting screened is a way to know this risk in advance, which can help familes manage or even prevent the condition in the first place.