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Recipes for Life

Filled with delightful secrets

Inside this giant book's 23 chapters, you'll find all the recipes-your genes-for cooking up tens of thousands of proteins. Why proteins? They make and maintain your body. This recipe book holds all the basic instructions for a human-the entire human genome.

Genes are recipes

Your genome is like a huge recipe book with 30,000 to 40,000 recipes . Recipes for what? For the tens of thousands of proteins that make and maintain your body.

Genes don't work alone

Your genetic recipes are influenced by your surroundings. Just as the cooking environment such as oven temperature or altitude can change how a recipe turns out, your surroundings influence how you turn out. By determining which genes you inherit from your parents, chance also plays a role. You are the product of your genes, your experiences, your surroundings, and chance.

More information:
Life's Recipe Cookbook
Looking up a recipe
How similar are you?

Life's Recipe Cookbook

Your genome is like a huge recipe book. It may help to think of it like this:

1 recipe book = 1 genome

The recipe book with all your DNA and genes is your genome-all the basic instructions for a human.

23 chapters = 23 pairs of chromosomes

Your 23 chapters, or pairs of chromosomes, hold all your recipes. Chromosomes are tightly bundled threads of DNA and protein. They're wrapped up like balls of string in the nucleus of a cell.

1 recipe = 1 gene

A recipe for making protein is in a gene. Some genes contain the recipe for a single protein; other genes can make more than one protein. A gene is a section of DNA on a chromosome.

1 word = 1 codon

A word is spelled by a sequence of three bases, such as TCG, along one side of the DNA ladder. Each three-letter word is called a codon.

1 letter = 1 base

A letter in DNA's code is a chemical called a base. Four bases-A, T, G, and C-make up the rungs of the DNA ladder (A connects to T, G connects to C). Your entire genome contains about 3 billion rungs.

Chromosome 4 recipes

Open to a chapter and you'll find all the recipes on that chromosome. In Chapter 4 (chromosome #4) you'll find recipes for red hair, albumin (a major protein in blood), dentin (an ingredient in your teeth), and many, many others. Some scientists think the gene or genes for a very long life are on #4. This chapter also holds genes that contribute to Huntington's disease, diabetes, and juvenile gum disease.

Looking up a recipe

Let's say you want to find the recipe (gene) for red hair. First, go to chapter 4 (chromosome #4).

Then look in the table of contents (chromosome map) for that chapter. You'll find the red-hair recipe at 4q28 to 4q31 (chromosome #4's long arm "q" at loci 28 to 31.)

Now go to the red hair recipe's page (section of DNA), called HCL2.

On this page you'll find the genetic code-the As, Cs, Gs, and Ts-for the recipe for the protein that makes red hair.

How similar are you?

Compare genomes. You share this percentage of your genes with other organisms...

  • human to yeast about 30%
  • human to worm about 40%
  • human to banana about 50%
  • human to fruit fly about 60%
  • human to mouse about 90%
  • human to chimp about 98.4%
  • human to human about 99.9% (except for twins, whose genes are 100% identical)

You don't look like a worm or a banana, so how can your genome be so similar to theirs? Life on earth has a common ancestry, and life's cells work in very similar ways. That's good news. Because we're so similar, comparing genomes of different creatures is leading to the causes (and some day cures) for genetic diseases and disorders.

Oh, what a difference 0.1% makes


Look at all the people around you. See the variety in hair color, height, skin tones, and so many other human features? That variety is due to differences in just a few of the letters in our genetic recipes.

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