Chromosomes are incredibly tiny structures that exist inside every cell in our bodies. They are a combination of our DNA and protein. The information contained in chromosomes dictate a lot about our risks for certain diseases. They decide what color eyes you have, how tall you’re going to be, and what biological gender you’re assigned at birth. More importantly, chromosomes act as a set of instructions which our cells use to function and replicate.
Below are thirteen chromosome facts and scientific revelations that you may be interested in:
1. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes.
Chromosomes are found in the nuclear of every cell. Every form of life has a different number of chromosomes. Human beings have 23 pairs. In each cell, that puts the official count at 46 chromosomes.
2. Chromosomes differ between men and women
As mentioned, we all have 23 pairs of chromosomes and a total of 46 chromosomes each. In these, there are pairs of 1 to 22 plus an extra pair which is known as the X/Y pair. If a baby’s born with the X/Y gene, this is what determines they are a boy. If a baby’s born without it, they are female and thereby have a XX chromosome identity.
3. Chromosomes for DNA
Chromosomes keep DNA tightly wrapped around proteins. A single human cell contains enough DNA molecules that if you were to unwind them and set them up end-to-end, they would reach approximately 6 feet. Chromosomes are key to ensure as cells are replicating and dividing to produce new cells, DNA is accurately copied and distributed. In this sense, chromosomes are almost like a printer.
4. When a chromosome makes a mistake in cell duplication
Chromosomes are not perfect. They make mistakes with DNA cell replication. If these mistakes happen, they can have serious consequences. For example, some cancers including leukemia are believed to be caused by defective chromosomes created from a joining of pieces of chromosomes previously broken.
5. Animals have different chromosome from us
One of the interesting chromosome facts is that animals have vastly different genetic structures from us. Not every life form is born with the same chromosome count. For example, a horse has 64 chromosomes, rabbits have 44, and the average fruit fly has 8. For some of these animals, the chromosomes they carry contain blank DNA. This blank DNA is sometimes referred to as ‘junk DNA’.
6. How do geneticists see chromosomes?
Chromosomes cannot be seen by the naked eye as they are simply too small and thin. With a microscope, even using some of the most powerful models available, seeing chromosomes is impossible. That said, when a cell gets ready to divide, the chromosomes pack themselves in. Using a high powered microscope, we can see chromosomes which usually look like little worms.
7. You are half your mother and half your father
When we are born, we receive half of our body’s chromosomes from the mother and half from our father. Different chromosomes carry different information. They can also be inactivated in some cells. This creates a very challenging portrait to paint for each human being, although you can order DNA tests in order to learn more about your genetic composition.
8. Inside chromosomes are our genes
Genes have the code on how to make specific proteins. It’s these proteins that determine how our bodies grow and some of the traits we inherit from parents. These genes wouldn’t be able to exist or function in this way without chromosomes as a carrier.
9. How many genes can our chromosomes carry?
It is estimated humans carry roughly 30,000 genes across 46 chromosomes. Depending on how these genes express themselves and develop, there are evidently many variables at play determining key aspects of a person’s physical and mental development.
10. Why women are more at risk of certain diseases
Why women are more likely to develop certain conditions such as multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases, and fibromyalgia has everything to do with genes on the chromosome. Recent studies show us how certain genes express themselves more in women than male, with one of the consequences being a higher likelihood of developing inflammation, cellular damage, and symptoms of certain chronic illnesses.
11. Chromosome 1
As mentioned, chromosomes are listed with the numbers 1 to 22 and with the extra X/Y. Chromosome 1 is the largest chromosome we have, consisting of more than 4,000 genes and accounting for 8 percent of our entire human DNA. Chromosome has been thoroughly studied and continues to be a focus of contemporary research as it’s very, very susceptive to genetic variations. Numerous diseases are linked to these polymorphisms and mutations.
12. Why they are called ‘chromosomes’
Chromosomes received their name from the combination of ‘chroma’ which means color and ‘soma’ which means body. When chromosomes were first discovered, they were given this name because in order to see them, they would have to be strongly stained with colorful dyes. The ultimate result of this was a look of color under the microscope.
13. Every year, we discover new chromosomes, genes, or DNA
In humans and other living creatures, every year, scientists are learning more about gene and chromosome function. For example, earlier this year, a team at a veterinary college in Russia discovered songbirds have an extra chromosome in their germ cells compared to other avian species. As we continue to learn more about chromosomes, their existence, and how they function, we can better understand how to prevent or treat certain conditions or diseases and ultimately better comprehend how our bodies work.