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Mitochondrial disorders can be inherited from one or both parents due to genetic changes in either the nuclear or mitochondrial genomes. The family tree, or pedigree, of a person suspected of having one of these diseases may help both to determine the inheritance pattern for the disease, and to determine its diagnosis. If several family members are suspected of having a mitochondrial disorder, knowing the inheritance pattern of the disease may also predict who within the family might be at risk for having this condition. The main types of inheritance patterns for mitochondrial diseases are shown below. The X-linked, autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive patterns are a result of mutations of genes contained within the nuclear genome; the maternal or mitochondrial inheritance pattern is a result of mutations within the mitochondrial genome.

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