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Genes

Definition

A gene is a short piece of DNA. Genes tell the body how to build specific proteins. There are about 20,000 genes in each cell of the human body. Together, they make up the blueprint for the human body and how it works.

A person's genetic makeup is called a genotype.

Information

Genes are made of DNA. Strands of DNA make up part of your chromosomes. Chromosomes have matching pairs of 1 copy of a specific gene. The gene occurs in the same position on each chromosome.

Genetic traits, such as eye color, are dominant or recessive:

  • Dominant traits are controlled by 1 gene in the pair of chromosomes.
  • Recessive traits need both genes in the gene pair to work together.

Many personal characteristics, such as height, are determined by more than 1 gene. However, some diseases, such as sickle cell anemia, can be caused by a change in a single gene.

References

Stedman's Online Medical Dictionary. www.stedmansonline.com/content.aspx?id=mlrG0500001046&termtype=t. Accessed April 24, 2015.


Review Date: 4/20/2015
Reviewed By: Chad Haldeman-Englert, MD, FACMG, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Section on Medical Genetics, Winston-Salem, NC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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