Cheat Sheet: Genes, Chromosomes and DNA

25 Sep

Nature is the type of cook who is lost without her recipes. Chromosomes are cookbooks, and we have two editions of each.  The recipes are genes.

When we talk about our genes, we are talking about the packages of biological information that we inherit from our parents, and less directly, from our millions of ancestors.

According to the researchers who mapped the human genome, a person has about 20 to 25,000 genes.

Our genes are made up of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) strung together by the millions to make thread-like strands called chromosomes at the center (nucleus) of almost all of the trillions of cells in our bodies.

We have 46 chromosomes–23 from mom, 23 from dad.  Each set (mom’s and dad’s) contains only slightly different versions of the same genes.  Technically, each version is called an allele (pronounced uh-LEEL).

Our bodies read our genetic “recipes” in order to cook up amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins.  Proteins, in turn, help our bodies to form, grow, heal, move and function.

Explore the “Cheat Sheets” category to read index cards covering the basics of genetics.

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