How and Why is a Chromosome Analysis Done?
Updated on March 18, 2024
Back to top
back to top icon
DNA Testing
How and Why is a Chromosome Analysis Done?

Key Takeaways

Chromosome analysis, or karyotyping, is a test that helps doctors learn about a person’s genes.1

Usually, humans have 46 chromosomes grouped into 23 pairs. One of those pairs establishes our biological sex (XX for biological women and XY for biological men).2

A chromosome analysis can determine various genetic abnormalities.

Karyotyping is vital in prenatal screening. It can predict potential health problems in the fetus.

It can also assist in understanding the underlying causes of infertility, miscarriages, and certain types of cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma.

It is a valuable tool in genetics and clinical medicine, aiding diagnosis, prognosis, and genetic counseling.

How and Why is a Chromosome Analysis Done? 1

Know Your DNA Reviews

Best DNA Kit

Don't miss out on the opportunity to learn more about yourself. Read our best DNA test page to find the best one for you.

What is Chromosome Analysis?

Chromosome analysis or karyotyping primarily aims to detect genetic abnormalities and diagnose various health conditions.2

Doctors can examine chromosomes to identify extra, missing, or irregularly shaped chromosomes. If there’s an anomaly with any of the chromosomes, it usually indicates an irregularity.

Why is Chromosome Analysis Important?

Chromosome analysis is essential due to the following reasons:

Identifying Genetic Abnormalities

It helps identify genetic abnormalities due to the change in the number, structure, or even shape of chromosomes. This includes conditions like Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, and many others.

Early diagnosis can lead to better management and support.

Predicting Health Risks

It can give us hints about the chances of developing specific health problems later in life. This information can guide us to make healthier choices and get proper medical care.

Prenatal Screening

During pregnancy, it can predict potential health problems in the developing fetus. This lets parents and doctors prepare for any needed medical help.

Understanding Fertility Problems

For couples having trouble having a baby, this test can uncover genetic factors that might be causing the problem. It can help guide treatments and family planning decisions.

Detecting Cancer

In cancer cases like leukemia and lymphoma, it can be a special tool that helps doctors figure out what’s going on with the disease. This helps plan the proper treatment.

Helping Make Informed Health Decisions

The results from this test can be a roadmap for your health. They can give you and your family important information to make smart choices about your health and family planning.

The Karyotype Test Procedure

How is the Karyotype Test Done?

The karyotype test is done as follows:

  1. Sample collection – They will collect a small sample of your cells. It can be a blood sample, bone marrow, or even some fluid around a growing baby during pregnancy (amniotic fluid).
  2. Sample preparation – The cells are sent to a special lab to grow. This is necessary to have enough cells with visible chromosomes.
  3. Chromosome visualization – After the cells have grown, they’re treated with a special dye that makes the chromosomes stand out under a microscope.
  4. Taking chromosome photos – Microphotographs of the stained chromosomes are taken. These images capture their unique patterns and structures.
  5. Karyotyping or creating a chromosome map – The photos are pieced together to create a karyotype map. Chromosomes are organized by size, with the sex chromosomes (X and Y) in their respective positions.
  6. Analysis – Lab experts look at the chromosome map to see if everything looks normal or if there are any extra, missing, or odd parts.
  7. Results – A report can be generated, which you can go over with your doctor. It can help with medical decisions and understanding your health.

Which Stain is Used to Study Chromosomes?

The stain commonly used to study chromosomes in karyotyping is the Giemsa stain.3 It’s effective at highlighting the unique banding pattern of chromosomes, making it easier to distinguish and identify individual chromosomes.

It’s a combination of eosin and methylene blue dyes. It’s designed to stain chromosomes to be seen under a microscope.

How and Why is a Chromosome Analysis Done? 2

When treated with this stain, chromosomes take on distinct patterns of light and dark bands. This is vital during the karyotyping process.

These bands help researchers distinguish chromosomes, assess their structure, and identify any abnormalities.

Understanding Test Results

What Do My Test Results Mean?

The test results may indicate the following:

  • Normal – Your genetic makeup is in the typical range.
  • Abnormal – Abnormalities can be extra chromosomes, missing ones, or changes in structure. The specific abnormality can tell the diagnosis and health implications.
  • Genetic disorders – Some karyotype abnormalities are linked to a genetic disorder. For example, an extra chromosome 21 points to Down syndrome, while missing an X chromosome is a sign of Turner syndrome.
  • Health risks – Some issues might raise the chance of developing health problems in the future. The specific abnormality can give doctors clues about potential risks.

How are Chromosomal Abnormalities Detected?

​​Detecting chromosomal abnormalities involves using advanced genetic tests like Chromosomal Microarray Analysis (CMA).

CMA is a powerful genetic test that goes beyond karyotyping to provide higher-resolution insights into a person’s DNA.4 Here’s how it’s done:

  1. A sample is collected—usually blood, saliva, bone marrow, or amniotic fluid during pregnancy.
  2. The sample is applied to a microarray chip containing thousands of DNA probes for lab analysis.
  3. The person’s DNA is compared to a reference DNA sample.
  4. You then get your results interpreted, which involves a genetic counselor. They are skilled at reading complex test results. They can explain a genetic disorder and its potential risks or implications.

CMA is effective in detecting copy number variations (CNVs), which can include deletions (loss of genetic material) or duplications (extra copies of genetic material).4 CNVs suggest an abnormality.

What are the Different Types of Chromosome Analysis?

There are various ways to analyze chromosomes, each with its purpose in genetic testing:

  • Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) – This is a targeted technique. It uses special markers to find specific genetic sequences. It’s often used to uncover known genetic problems, especially in cancer.5
  • Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH) – Similar to CMA but used more in research and diagnosis.6
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) – This zooms in on specific DNA sequences for testing.7
  • Multiplex Ligation-Dependent Probe Amplification (MLPA) – This helps find extra or missing pieces of DNA in specific areas. It helps diagnose hereditary conditions.8
  • Molecular Karyotyping – Combination of traditional karyotyping with modern techniques to give extra details about chromosomal problems. It’s handy when regular karyotyping doesn’t give a clear answer.9

What is IVF Chromosome Analysis?

IVF Chromosome Analysis, or Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Aneuploidy (PGT-A), is an important tool in in vitro fertilization (IVF).10

Its main purpose is to check the genetic health of embryos created through IVF before placing them in the woman’s womb.

Here’s how it’s carried out:

  1. IVF is done to create embryos
  2. Some cells are taken from these embryos for genetic testing
  3. Genetic tests check if the embryos have the right number of chromosomes
  4. Healthy embryos are chosen for implantation, increasing the chance of a successful pregnancy and reducing the probability of birth defects

This method is helpful for those with a history of pregnancy loss or genetic issues. It improves IVF success rates and lowers the risk of birth defects.

Common Questions About Chromosome Analysis

What Cells Are Used for Chromosome Analysis?

Different cells can be used, including blood sample, cells inside the mouth (cheek swabs), amniotic fluid during pregnancy, and even bone marrow samples.

The type of cell used depends on the purpose of the analysis and the person’s health condition.

Why are White Blood Cells Used for Karyotyping?

White blood cells are commonly used for karyotyping because they have a stable number of chromosomes and can be easily obtained through a routine blood sample draw.

What are the Limitations of Chromosome Analysis?

Karyotyping is best at detecting large-scale issues but might miss smaller genetic mutations.

It provides a snapshot at a specific time, so it can’t catch changes that occur later.

Interpreting the results can be tricky, and not all abnormalities cause a genetic disorder or other health problems. That’s why experts need to look at the results carefully.

Know Your DNA Reviews

The Best DNA Test

Looking for a DNA test that's accurate and can tell you about your health and heritage?

Updated on March 18, 2024
Minus IconPlus Icon
10 sources cited
Updated on March 18, 2024
  1. Karyotype.” National Human Genome Research Institute.

  2. Genetics, Cytogenetic Testing And Conventional Karyotype.” National Library of Medicine.

  3. Chromosome Preparation From Cultured Cells.” National Library of Medicine.

  4. Chromosomal Microarray Analysis (CMA) a Clinical Diagnostic Tool in the Prenatal and Postnatal Settings.National Library of Medicine.

  5. Fluorescence in Situ Hybridization (FISH).” National Human Genome Research Institute.

  6. Novel Applications of Array Comparative Genomic Hybridization in Molecular Diagnostics.” National Library of Medicine.

  7. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Fact Sheet.” National Human Genome Research Institute.

  8. Multiplex Ligation-Dependent Probe Amplification.” National Library of Medicine.

  9. Use of the MLPA Assay in the Molecular Diagnosis of Gene Copy Number Alterations in Human Genetic Diseases.” National Library of Medicine.

  10. Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT).” Washington University Physicians.

Katrina Canlas
Katrina Canlas
Content Contributor
KC Canlas is an experienced content writer for Know Your DNA. She combines her passion for storytelling with a deep understanding of DNA and genetics. She creates engaging content that can empower readers with knowledge about their genetic makeup, promoting a greater understanding of the role DNA plays in their lives.