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How the English language can help us understand genetics – genes and chromosomes

Welcome to DNA Demystified – Unscrambling Genetic Jargon

Genes, alleles, genotyping, SNPs.. a lot of jargon is being discussed when it comes to your genetics, health and wellness. With so much new information coming out every day about genetics, we understand that things can get a little too confusing at times. So we at XCode bring you the ‘DNA Demystified’ series. It’s our humble attempt to unscramble some of that genetic jargon and make things a little easier for you. This is the first post in the DNA Demystified series. All future posts in the series will have the DNA Demystified tag up on top so if you ever want to go back to any of the posts all you have to do is click on the tag to go to your very own genetic classroom!

Genes and Chromosomes


Our bodies are made up of trillions of cells that allow us to live and breathe. Inside the core or ‘nucleus’ of each cell is contained a whole lot of very tightly packed DNA, the well-known ‘secret of life’. Genes are made up of DNA. A specific segment of DNA that is capable of producing a protein is usually referred to as a gene. Here’s an analogy. If all of your DNA or your ‘genome’ were a book, DNA would be the entire string of letters that make up the book (except DNA has only 4 alphabets A, T, G and C. We’ll talk about that in a future post). A certain string of letters that make up a meaningful sentence would be considered a gene and many such sentences would make a chapter, analogous to a ‘chromosome’. As humans, we have two mostly identical sets of 23 chromosomes each in every cell in our body (except sperm and egg cells). That’s a total of 46 chromosomes. Going back to the book analogy, it’s like having two books with 23 chapters each in every cell in our body.

And that’s genes and chromosomes in a nutshell for you! In the next post, we will discuss what an ‘allele’ is and how exactly alleles are connected to diseases.

James Watson
Xcode is a pioneer in personal genomics, focussed on enabling personalized preventive healthcare. We are dedicated to empowering physicians, wellness professionals and customers with the most validated, accurate and actionable genomic information to positively impact and improve their client's health and quality of life.