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Chromosomal Abnormalities

Normal Cell Division

In most animals, two types of cell division exist. In mitosis, cells divide to produce two identical daughter cells. Each daughter cell has exactly the same number of chromosomes. This preservation of chromosome number is accomplished through the replication of the entire set of chromosomes just prior to mitosis.

Sex cells, such as eggs and sperm, undergo a different type of cell division called meiosis. Because sex cells each contribute half of a zygote's genetic material, sex cells must carry only half the full complement of chromosomes. This reduction in the number of chromosomes within sex cells is accomplished during two rounds of cell division, called meiosis I and meiosis II. Prior to meiosis I, the chromosomes replicate, and chromosome pairs are distributed to daughter cells. During meiosis II, however, these daughter cells divide without a prior replication of chromosomes. It is easy to see that mistakes can occur during either meiosis I and meiosis II. Chromosome pairs can be separated during meiosis I, for instance, or fail to separate during meiosis II.

Meiosis produces four daughter cells, each with half of the normal number of chromosomes. These sex cells are called haploid cells (haploid means "half the number"). Non-sex cells in humans are called diploid (meaning "double the number") since they contain the full number of normal chromosomes.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Chimaeras to ClusterChromosomal Abnormalities - Normal Number And Structure Of Human Chromosomes, Normal Cell Division, Alterations In Chromosome Structure, Genetic Counseling - Alterations in chromosome number