The cause of Gaucher's disease is a deficit of the enzyme glucocerebrosidase. This enzyme normally breaks down fatty substances (lipids) called glucocerebrosides. When the enzyme is scarce, however, the fatty substances can build up in your brain and other organs, and within your bone marrow.

Gaucher's disease is passed along in an inheritance pattern called autosomal recessive. Both parents must be carriers of a Gaucher's genetic mutation for their child to develop the condition. So far, researchers have noted more than 300 genetic mutations associated with Gaucher's disease. Even when both parents are carriers, there's still only a 25 percent chance that their child will develop the disease, compared with a 50 percent chance of their child being an unaffected carrier, and a 25 percent chance of his or her not being a carrier and not having the disease.

Jul. 08, 2011