What is a gene?

20 Oct

Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy Genome Programs: http://genomics.energy.gov.

 

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 of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and they live on thread-like strands called chromosomes at the center (the 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) contain only slightly different versions of the same genes.  Technically, each version is called an allele (pronounced uh-LEEL).

 Our chromosomes are like 23 cookbooks (two editions of each) and our genes are like recipes.  Our bodies read the recipes in order to cook up the amino acids that create proteins.  Proteins help our bodies form, grow, heal, move and function.

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