Genetics 101

Knowledge is the key to overcome disease.

What are chromosomes, DNA, and genes?

We all have a ‘blueprint’ with instructions for our body to function properly. This ‘blueprint’ is what makes us all different and unique. Our ‘blueprint’ consists of 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 total) within the cells in our body. We get one set of 23 chromosomes from each of our parents and we pass on one chromosome from each pair (half of our chromosomes) to each of our children.

The blueprint of our chromosomes is written in a language using chemicals called DNA.

DNA is a double-stranded helix structure that carries information from one generation to next. DNA is organized into packages called genes. Each chromosome contains thousands of genes.

What makes us unique?

Small differences in our DNA in our genes are what make us unique. Most differences are called genetic variants and are normal and common. These variants can produce the diverse traits we see in the population (e.g., eye color, height, skin color, etc.). When a difference in gene variants causes a health problem, it is called a mutation.

Not only do genes contribute to your unique traits, they can also contribute to health. Learn more about genes and diseases in the next section:

Your Genes, Your Health

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