Chromosome 21

Accidental inheritance and Downs syndrome

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Accidental inheritance

The creation of our sex cells - sperm and eggs - is an intricate process which can spell the difference between life and death. We typically inherit 23 pairs of chromosomes from our parents, but when mistakes occur in the process of meiosis (the formation of sperm and egg cells) some sex cells can end up with two copies of the same chromosome.

The chromosome that this usually occurs with is chromosome 21. When that sex cell then fuses with another to form an embryo, that embryo inherits 3 copies of chromosome 21 (one from one parent, and two from another) meaning that it has 47 chromosomes instead of 46.

As chromosome 21 is one of the shortest chromosomes the embryo can survive this duplication, but the result is a condition called Down's Syndrome, which causes developmental and physical disabilities. TV presenter and biologist Dr Yan Wong explains how this process occurs.

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Themes

Being Human

Details

Type:
Demo
Organisations/Partners:
BBSRC
Location:
London, UK
Published:
2013
Filmed:
2013
Credits:

Ben Wilson / The Royal Institution

Collections with this video:
Chromosome: Ri Advent Calendar 2013

cc_by-nc-sa License: Creative Commons

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