Medically reviewed by Hector Guillen, Ph.D
An Introduction to Chromosomes
Chromosomes are one of the most important entities that are central to our understanding of genetics. These are the structures that carry a parent’s genetic information into a newly formed fetus, and are then responsible for housing an individual’s DNA within the nucleus of every cell in their body.
Chromosomes are extremely important because without them, our cells would not know how to perform their individual functions that keep us alive. They also contain the genetic code that tells us who we are.
Understanding chromosomes is an essential component of understanding the basics of genetics. The more you know about the appearance and function of these structures, the easier it will be to understand how our genes influence everything from our appearance to our appetite, food cravings, and so much more.
What are Chromosomes?
Chromosomes are the structures that house our DNA. Within each chromosome, there is a long strand of DNA that is densely wrapped around a protein called a histone, which helps it keep its shape. Without the histone, the DNA strand would be too long to fit inside each cell.
Within almost every cell there are 23 pairs of chromosomes, which make up the complete set of DNA known as the human genome. The only exception is within an individual’s sex cells – in those cells, there are 11 pairs of chromosomes, plus one unpaired sex chromosome. In the event of fertilization, the parent’s chromosomes meet to form their new child’s full set of DNA.
Chromosomes are so minuscule that scientists and researchers can only see them during cell division when they are clustered together in denser groups than usual.
When isolated, chromosomes look like an extended X with four separate arms. Each chromosome is made up of two halves of each replicated chromosome, called sister chromatids, which are held together by a centromere.
What Do Chromosomes Do?
To remain healthy, our cells need to be constantly dividing to replace other cells that have aged and died. The chromosome is central to this process.
During cell division, the chromosomes pull apart, and each new cell retains a full copy of the individual’s DNA. If the chromosome were not able to replicate accurately or had structural issues, it could lead to problems like cancer or other illnesses that are caused by these faulty or incomplete chromosomes.
Chromosomes in Relation to Genetics
Our chromosomes are the central structures that make up our genome, the complete set of instructions that determine how our body synthesizes proteins and functions in our day-to-day lives. This impacts everything from our eye color to how our body metabolizes nutrients.
Chromosomes and Nutrition
Despite our best efforts, there is still a lot that we don’t know about the function of DNA and human genes. One of the areas where research is still ongoing is in the field of nutrigenomics, where scientists are working to determine how our genes affect our metabolism and the way we process food.
Nutrigenomics can help us understand how certain foods affect different people. This includes developing different sets of guidelines that can be customized to an individual’s unique genetic profile. For example, the fact that sodium increases blood pressure in some people but not others has been identified as a genetic trait.
Right now, there are several tests available that can analyze your genes, and recommend personalized changes to your diet based on your genetic makeup. GenoPalate offers a convenient and easy option, using only a cheek swab. We then analyze your DNA and send you an Essential Nutrition Report detailing your ideal macronutrient ranges, recommended daily vitamin and mineral intake, food sensitivities, as well as information on the best foods for you based on your genes.
Try it today to see how your unique genetic profile can impact your nutrition.
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