Universe? God? Yoda? Einstein? – whoever’s out there… “What is the meaning of life?” “Who am I?”
The answers to those questions might still contested, but, if we had to boil it down to one word, it would be: genes.
How would you describe yourself in one word? Do you hate being labelled? Do you cringe at being misunderstood?
You’re not alone. Did you know you have more than 20,000 genes in your DNA?
A pair of jeans is a pair of jeans. Every pair is made with thousands of small denim fibers. But jeans vary in color, size, and other stylistic features.
Humans are kind of the same way. We’re all comprised of of about 25,000 genes – no longer talking about pants – and most of these genes are the same in every human.
Thousands and thousands of genes account for our similarities to each other, but only 0.1% of them make us unique. So what do you think makes you, you?
Chromosomes are made from coiled molecules of DNA, which are in turn made up of smaller sequences of DNA called genes. Genes not only determine your unique traits and physical characteristics, but they also generate specific proteins to build, regulate and maintain your body. These proteins are responsible for bone growth, muscle movement, digestion control, circulation, and much more.
Genetic researchers are still working to identify which genes are in which pairs of chromosomes, but what we do know is that your chromosomes vary in size and in function. For example, your largest chromosome is called Chromosome 1, and it accounts for 8% of all your DNA cells.
In total, humans have roughly 10 trillion DNA cells, and if you were to line them all up, they’d stretch from the earth to the sun 100 times!
A sperm cell carries 23 chromosomes, and an egg cell carries 23 chromosomes. They each have their own respective genetic information, accounting for certain traits like, hair color, eye color, height, wing span, temperature control, X-ray vision, SUPER-HUMAN STRENGTH!
Okay, we’re getting ahead of ourselves… You genes might not be able to make you bulletproof, but you can still call yourself a mutant if that’s what makes you happy.
The sperm cell and the egg cell combine to create a new cell, setting off a chain reaction of cell divisions which will eventually produce another human. But as new cells are being created to form, well, you, genetic information from your father and your mother is being shuffled around and randomly assigned to your cells. These determine your hair color, your eye-color, and so on.
Don’t be alarmed if you’ve got a sibling who doesn’t look exactly like you. It’s not an alien conspiracy. The two of you simply got a different mix of your parents genes – and that’s what makes you special!
All babies get one X chromosome from their mother, but it’s a 50/50 chance they’ll get one from their father. The father carries both X and Y chromosomes. If the X gets passed on, congratulations, you were born female. If you’re a male, that means your Father’s Y chromosome combined with you mother’s X chromosome to make you.
So there’s the birds and the bees. But you don’t always have to look to the sky for answers.
Sometimes the answer’s right in front of you – that is, if you’re in front of a mirror, your parents, or a computer.
- “The Genetic Basics: What Are Genes And What Do They Do? – A Revolution In Progress: Human Genetics And Medical Research”. 2018. history.nih.gov. Accessed December 17 2018.
- ” Where do genes come from?”. 2018. 23andme.com. Accessed December 17 2018.
- “Genetics 101 (Part 3 Of 5): Where Do Your Genes Come From?”. 2018. Youtube. Accessed December 17 2018.
- “How Many Chromosomes Do People Have?”. Genetics Home Reference. Accessed December 17 2018.
- “Why Does Every Cell In Our Body Contain DNA?”. 2018. Science Questions With Surprising Answers. Accessed December 17 2018.
- “What Is A Gene?”. Genetics Home Reference. Accessed December 17 2018.