What are genes?

Genes are the way that we inherit our characteristics.  We have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes in every cell of our bodies.  Genes are made up of DNA.  The information in our DNA is stored as a code made up of 4 bases: A, G, C and T.  Human DNA contains about 3 billion bases with more than 99% of those being the same in all people.  The order or sequence of these bases is as important as spelling a word or writing a sentence correctly.

Genes consist of coding (exonic) and non-coding (intronic) regions of DNA.  The coding regions are important to the production of the proteins that our genes make.  The non-coding regions of the DNA were initially thought to be less relevant, however more recently we are beginning to understand that this area of DNA also impacts on our genes.