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Genetics is the study of heredity and how traits are passed along from parents to offspring. Genes are contained within the chromosomes found within the egg and sperm. Each parent contributes one half of each pair or 23 chromosomes to their child, 22 autosomal and 1 sex chromosome. The inheritance of genetic diseases, abnormalities, or traits is described by both the type of chromosome the abnormal gene resides on (autosomal or sex chromosome), and by whether the gene itself is dominant or recessive.

Review Date 1/25/2016

Updated by: Chad Haldeman-Englert, MD, FACMG, Fullerton Genetics Center, Asheville, NC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.