Unstacking life's building blocks
On April 25,
The paper, which runs at fewer than 1,000 words, puts forward the discovery by James Watson and Francis Crick (with colleagues Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin), that DNA consists of two helical chains coiled around each other in a twisting ladder shape. Their discovery would lead to incredible advances in medicine, synthetic biology, genetic modification and agriculture.
The discovery of the structure of DNA in
The discovery of the structure of DNA in Cambridge, led to the understanding of DNA base pairs, then genes and heredity - the passing on of genetic information from parent to child.
How does DNA work?
DNA is like a blueprint for a living thing, whether that’s a flower, a jellyfish or President Barack Obama. Contained inside the two strands are base pairs, genetic codes which tell other parts of a cell what kind of protein to make. Proteins are made from amino
The process for making a liver, for example, goes a little something like this:
- Inside a cell’s nucleus, a small part of a DNA sequence is replicated
- This new structure is known as RNA
- The RNA travels out into the cell where the amino acids are stored
- A structure called a ribosome reads the RNA code, and arranges the amino acids accordingly
- Once arranged, the amino acids form proteins, which go on to form cells, and eventually a liver
What does Crick and Watson’s work mean for global health?
As we mentioned, the discovery of the structure of DNA led to advances in our understanding of how genes work, and how the presence or absence of certain genes can affect a person’s chances of developing certain hereditary diseases.
Gene therapy is another promising area of medicine, which owes some of its success to the discovery of DNA’s structure.
For example, conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Parkinson’s disease have been noted for centuries, but with more research taking place into the genes which cause them, we’re moving ever closer to cures.
Gene therapy is another promising area of medicine, which owes some of its success to the discovery of DNA’s structure. In cancer, for example, gene therapy may be able to attack offending cells from within, using a treatment tailored specifically for that person.
As our command over DNA and genes becomes more refined, we are able to introduce new fruits and vegetables to developing countries, which have higher nutritional value and could save lives.
The history and implications of our understanding of DNA and genetics