There are approximately over 30,000 genes in the human body. In 2001 the Human Genome Project, a consortium of over 1000 scientists worldwide, finished sifting through the 3 billion bits of DNA in each human cell to map the ordering all of the human genes.
A gene can be defined as a region of DNA that controls a hereditary characteristic. It usually corresponds to a sequence used in the production of a specific protein or RNA.
A gene carries biological information in a form that must be copied and transmitted from each cell to all its progeny. This includes the entire functional unit: coding DNA sequences, non-coding regulatory DNA sequences, and introns.
Genes can be as short as 1000 base pairs or as long as several hundred thousand base pairs. It can even be carried by more than one chromosome.
The estimate for the number of genes in humans has decreased as our knowledge has increased. As of 2001, humans are thought to have between 30,000 and 40,000 genes.
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More recent research estimates there to be 24,500 or fewer protein-coding genes
Source: Pennisi, E. 2003. “A Low Number Wins the GeneSweep Pool,” Science 300, 1484.
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