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A gene is a section of the genetic material or
deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in a cell. Genes, alone or in combination, determine what features (genetic traits) a
person inherits from his or her parents, such as blood type, hair color, eye
color, and other characteristics, including risks for certain
Many genes together make up chromosomes. Defects in genes or
chromosomes may cause changes in certain body processes or functions. These
changes may be undetectable or may cause genetic diseases, such as hemophilia
or Down syndrome. Genetic problems may also increase the risk for some conditions, such as juvenile idiopathic arthritis and
Gene changes (mutations) can be passed from parents to children. Diseases
that run in families are often caused by genetic defects. A person may be born
with a certain genetic makeup that makes him or her susceptible or at risk for
a certain condition.
Current as of:
February 20, 2015
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Siobhan M. Dolan, MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics
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