What is Genetics?

A doctor explaining inheritance patterns

Genetics is the study of genes. Genes are the unique set of instructions inside our bodies which make each of us an individual. We have many thousands of genes, each carrying a different instruction. If a gene is altered, it can sometimes cause a genetic condition or disease.

Gene alterations can sometimes be inherited, or can start for the first time in the individual.

Gene alterations can be passed on in families in different ways, depending on the gene involved. The main types of inheritance patterns are ‘autosomal dominant’, ‘autosomal recessive’, ‘X linked’, ‘mitochondrial’ and ‘multifactorial’.

Genes are packaged into structures called chromosomes. Sometimes changes in the number or arrangement of chromosomes can also cause an individual to have differences in the way that they develop (one example is Down syndrome).