Understanding Your Genes
We live in an exciting time for science and medicine. Your genetic information may actually be used to manage your health care.
There are thousands of conditions for which genetic testing is available. If appropriate, a certified genetic counselor may offer you genetic testing. As a first step toward understanding your genes, it’s helpful to review the basics.
What are genes and how do they work?
Our bodies are made out of cells. Cells are the building blocks of our tissues, organs, and body systems. Inside each cell there are 46 chromosomes. Chromosomes are strings of genetic information organized in a code made out of four chemicals that work like a four-letter alphabet. Half of our 46 chromosomes come from our mother and the other half comes from our father. Genes are the instruction manuals of our bodies. Each person has approximately 20,000 genes. Genes come in pairs: we inherit one from our mother and one from our father. Therefore, there are two matching genes that code for each trait.