Chromosomes are long pieces of DNA found in the center (nucleus) of cells. DNA is the material that holds genes. It is considered the building block of the human body.
Chromosomes come in pairs. Normally, each cell in the human body has 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 total chromosomes). Half come from the mother; the other half come from the father.
Two of the chromosomes (the X and the Y chromosome) determine if you are born a boy or a girl (your gender). They are called sex chromosomes:
- Females have 2 X chromosomes.
- Males have 1 X and 1 Y chromosome.
The mother always contributes an X chromosome to the child. The father may contribute an X or a Y. Therefore, it is the chromosome from the father that determines the gender of the child.
The remaining chromosomes are called autosomal chromosomes. They are known as chromosome pairs 1 through 22.
Last reviewed 2/17/2011 by David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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