Minute to Understanding: What is a chromosome?


What is a chromosome?

Learn about one of the most important structures in our body: chromosomes! See how these chromosomes are structured and why they are essential to the cell division that makes our lives possible.

What is a chromosome? Our cells contain many structures that are essential for living. One of these key structures is a chromosome.

Chromosomes are found in the nucleus of every cell of our body and are made up of DNA, tightly coiled around proteins. We have 23 pairs of chromosomes altogether, and they can only be easily observed during cell division.

So why is our DNA kept in this special packaging? The chromosomes unique structure allows our genetic data to be discreetly kept inside our nuclei. This is important because we have an abundance of genetic data. If the DNA molecules in a single cell were unwound, they would stretch out to six feet long.

The chromosomes unique structure has a few key parts. Each chromosome has two short arms called p arms and two long arms called q arms. These arms are held together at the center by the centromere. The tips of the chromosome are capped by sections of DNA called telomeres. Telomeres protect chromosomes during DNA replication. By keeping our DNA secure, chromosomes make daily activities possible. For an organism to function properly, certain cells must constantly divide and replace older worn out cells with new ones. Chromosomes allow DNA to be accurately copied during these cell divisions.

So one more time. Chromosomes are found in the nuclei of our cells and allow DNA to be accurately copied during cell division. This ensures that our inner workings proceed smoothly and efficiently.

For more bite-size science to help you keep up with the latest breakthroughs, check out more Minute to Understanding videos here!