When you have a complicated family history, you may be curious about your genetic makeup.
Whether you’re curious about your family medical history or just want to know more about what makes you you, learning more about your genes can be a great idea. However, you should know a bit about what genes are and how they influence your body before diving into genealogy.
What are genes and how are they inherited through generations?
If you want to learn more about genes and genealogy, you’re in the right place. Here’s a guide to help you understand how genes are inherited.
What Are Genes?
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So, what is a gene? In short, a gene is a short section of DNA that creates a trait. These traits are a sort of instruction manual for your body. Each trait dictates how your body looks and behaves.
Genes are filled with instructions made up of proteins that tell the cells in your body how they should act. For example, one gene may tell a cell that your hair color is brown, while another may say how tall you are. Each gene performs a specific job that is necessary to keep you healthy.
What exactly makes up a gene and how can we tell them apart? DNA is built up of four separate chemicals that scientists have labeled A, C, T, and G. A gene strand is a random combination of these chemicals that dictate who you are. A complete list of all of your genes is called your genome.
While genes are small sequences of data, chromosomes are tightly bound strands of DNA. These can be found in every cell in the body and translate what the individual cells do. Each chromosome can house up to 25,000 genes!
Cells typically have 46 chromosomes inside of them with 22 regular paired chromosomes and two sex chromosomes. Many people have two copies of each chromosome, one from their mother and one from their father. These chromosomes will match together and form an embryo that will eventually become a person.
How Inheriting Genes Works
Now that you understand the basics behind genes and chromosomes, you can start to think about how they blend together and give us our traits. In most cases, there are several variations in how our genes dictate our bodies.
For example, our genes dictate what blood type we have: AB, A, B, or O. The genes of your mother and father will influence what blood type you end up with.
Gene variations are referred to as alleles. They occur when there is a genetic sequence that is different between a pair of chromosomes. How these alleles interact is referred to as inheritance patterns; this will dictate what traits you develop from your parents.
Dominant vs Recessive Traits
The most common interaction you will see between alleles is a dominant/recessive interaction. This means that one allele is stronger than the other and will have a better chance of becoming a gene trait. Eye color is one fantastic example of a dominant vs a recessive trait.
Blue eyes are a recessive trait (bb) and brown eyes are a dominant trait (BB). So long as one of your parents has brown eyes as a dominant trait, they will pass their brown eyes onto you (BB or Bb). Meanwhile, if both of your parents have blue eyes, you will take on the recessive trait (bb).
Parents can also be carriers of a recessive trait, meaning that they have inherited both the dominant and recessive gene traits but only exhibit the dominant trait. If both parents are carriers of a recessive trait, then there is still a chance of the child developing the recessive trait. However, this is rather uncommon and unlikely to occur.
Naturally, this is a watered-down version of how eye color is determined, as there are other shades besides blue and brown eyes. However, these variations are often the result of a genetic mutation; these mutations occur more frequently if one or both parents also have the mutation.
Environmental Effect on Genes
No matter what your genes say, your environment can have an effect on the traits that you develop. For example, you may have a trait that signals that you should be tall. However, if you are fed a poor diet, your growth may be stunted early on.
Understanding Your Genealogy
You may wonder why understanding your genealogy is important. While it is nice to know how you developed certain traits, there are also medical reasons to have your genes analyzed. Certain conditions can be passed through genes, such as certain types of cancer and other dangerous ailments.
While having a family history of genetic conditions does not guarantee that you will develop those conditions, it is good to be aware of the potential. If you are planning on having children, it is also good to know what conditions you may pass on to your offspring.
For those who are curious about genetics and want to learn more, Rosalind.bio offers a comprehensive program to help study and explore genetics!
Learn About Your Genetic History Today
Learning your genetic makeup can help you understand your body better and protect yourself from dangerous genetic conditions. Consider talking with a genetic counselor to learn more about your genes today!
Have you ever done genetic counseling? What did you learn about your genealogy?
We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences! Leave a comment down below with stories of your genetic discoveries and share this article with your friends and family to help them learn about genealogy.