Genetics: Ashkenazic Inheritance

The typical victim reveals the disorder on the very first day of his life. This baby stares at the world with a fixed, forlorn expression; he is devoid of reflexes; he cannot coordinate sucking and swallowing. Later he may seem to cry—but without tears. He will never revel in the joys of candy; he cannot taste the difference between sweet and sour. When he burns himself, he may not even feel the pain. He is a victim of dysautonomia—an inherited malfunction of the nervous system.

At a geneticists' meeting in Bar Harbor, Me., this week, Johns Hopkins University's Dr. Victor McKusick...

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