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Name: Robert
Status: Educator
Grade:  9-12
Location: TX
Country: United States
Date: December 2005

Recent research shows we have approximately 30,000 genes in humans. How many traits does this number of genes translate into?

Excellent question-we still don't have the answer! There is an article in Scientific American from April of 2005 called "The Alternative Genome" that is about alternative gene splicing. It allows part of genes to be cut apart and reshuffled to get more genetic information out of the existing amount of DNA. It's kind of like having a deck of 52 cards, but if you draw 5 at a time, you can get many more hands out of the deck if you shuffle them. It was indeed a surprise to have only 22,500 genes after the genome was sequenced. Scientists are still trying to figure out how that works exactly.


Dear Robert,

I would say your question is difficult to answer. Many "traits" are the consequence of more than one gene activity. For any particular trait it is difficult to predict . As well, a single gene can affect multiple traits. Furthermore, there might be a consensus on how many genes we have, but I believe there is not a consensus on how many total traits we have.

Jim T.

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