Happy DNA Day! On April 25th every year, we celebrate the 1953 publication of the discovery of the structure DNA in the journal Nature (Click here to read the paper!). 60 years is quite a short amount of time for us to have made such huge strides in understanding this exquisitely complex and exceedingly important biological polymer. All politics aside (we love you, Rosie!), the unbelievable environment of creativity and genius in the early 1950s was most definitely something to celebrate, and I hope you will!
In honor of DNA Day, I wanted to share some of my favorite internet bits about DNA. Did I miss any of your favorites?
1. Visual representation of transcription and translation
PBS’ “DNA. The Secret of Life” is an extremely interesting feature focusing on this wonderful molecule. In the clip below we will see a remarkably accurate representation of the process of DNA transcription (the process of producing mRNA from DNA) and translation (the process of producing protein from mRNA) – in real time!
2. Francis Crick’s letter to his son shortly after discovering the structure of DNA
Reading this letter gives me chills every single time. Once Watson and Crick (with the aid of important discoveries and data collected by Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins) discovered the structure of DNA, they had a very short amount of time to publish it. There was a literal race to the finish in terms of getting the structure correctly. In fact, chemistry giant Linus Pauling (and twice Nobel laureate) tried to deduce the structure a bit too quickly and incorrectly imagined it as being a triple helix. Shortly after, Crick mailed his son Michael a letter describing in beautiful and elegantly simple terms and figures exactly what the discovery was and how important they felt it might be. Monumental is an understatement. You can read the letter at the New York Times.
3. The Nobel prize lectures of the co-discoverers of the DNA helix
While many believe that not all true contributors to the discovery of the structure of DNA were rightly credited, we shouldn’t discount the efforts of those who were. The awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 (less than a decade after the discovery) to Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material” was a tremendous boon to biological research and the lectures given during the ceremony are worth a careful read. Click here to read Crick’s, Watson’s or Wilkins’ lectures.
4. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s “DNA From the Beginning”
This is a great resource for those unfamiliar with the fundamental experiments leading to our understanding of the structure, function and use of DNA as well as those who just need a refresher. With useful animations, videos and clear text, this website delivers complex information in a nice, digestible package. Visit CSHL’s DNAftb now here.
5. Paul Rothemund: The astonishing promise of DNA folding (TED)
One of my favorite topics, bar none. DNA origami is a fascinating field in nanobiotechnology which attempts to use the base-pairing ability of DNA to form complex 3-dimensional structures with the hopes that they can be used as materials for nano-scale devices for use in applications such as computing and drug delivery. In this talk Paul Rothemund, one of the founding scientists of the field, discusses the promise of DNA origami, what has been achieved, and what he hopes for the future. (Though RNA is looking like an equally, if not more promising, addition to the playing field)