Can changes in the number of chromosomes affect health and development?
Human cells normally contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46 chromosomes in each cell (illustration). A change in the number of chromosomes can cause problems with growth, development, and function of the body’s systems. These changes can occur during the formation of reproductive cells (eggs and sperm), in early fetal development, or in any cell after birth. A gain or loss of chromosomes from the normal 46 is called aneuploidy. A common form of aneuploidy is trisomy, or the presence of an extra chromosome in cells. “Tri-” is Greek for “three”; people with trisomy have three copies of a particular chromosome in cells instead of the normal two copies. Down syndrome is an example of a condition caused by trisomy (illustration). People with Down syndrome typically have three copies of chromosome 21 in each cell, for a total of 47 chromosomes per cell. Monosomy, or the loss of one chromosome in cells, is another kind of aneuploidy. “Mono-” is Greek for “one”; people with monosom