The delineation of disease entities is complex, yet recent advances in the molecular characterization of diseases provide opportunities to designate diseases in a biologically valid manner. Here, we have formalized an approach to the delineation of Mendelian genetic disorders that encompasses two distinct but inter-related concepts: (1) the gene that is mutated and (2) the phenotypic descriptor, preferably a recognizably distinct phenotype. We assert that only by a combinatorial or dyadic approach taking both of these attributes into account can a unitary, distinct genetic disorder be designated. We propose that all Mendelian disorders should be designated as “GENE-related phenotype descriptor” (e.g., “CFTR-related cystic fibrosis”). This approach to delineating and naming disorders reconciles the complexity of gene-to-phenotype relationships in a simple and clear manner yet communicates the complexity and nuance of these relationships.
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