Learn about genes
I’m sure you have heard people say “it’s in your genes” as this is often how we explain the many different characteristics which make each and everyone one of us unique.
In fact, we all inherit two copies of every gene, one from our mother and one from our father. This means that members of the same family tend to be similar, as they are likely to have fewer differences in their genes.
How do genes work?
Our bodies are made up of many tiny units called cells each containing a complete copy of a person’s genes. We all have many thousands of genes and they contain the “genetic instructions” that we inherit from our parents. These “instructions” make us have blonde or dark hair, blue or brown eyes and even determine our body shape.
How does the genetic code work?
It is all rather complicated. You need to think of the DNA being made of 2 strands of a mix of 4 different chemicals called “bases” which face each other and connect as pairs rather like the rungs of a ladder.
What do these letters mean?
This is where it gets even more complicated. To be able to understand the code it needs to be read as “3 letter words” called “codons” and each set of 3 letters correspond to another chemical called an “amino acid”.
What happens when there are changes in the genetic code?
If a single letter (base) in the sequence is out of place, a “spelling mistake” can occur. This can result in different “messages” that our bodies can’t understand, or a protein that doesn’t work properly or at all.
What is a mutation?
A mutation or faulty gene is a permanent change in a gene which may cause a problem with the development and functioning of many different parts of our body. Not all mutations cause problems.
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