THE SECRET OF LIFE (60th birthday of DNA)

“Human beings always celebrate their birthdays.., but today is the day when there was the birth of the molecule by which all the living creatures on this earth are born”....

Yes, February 28, 1953 was the day, when the structure of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) was discovered. Early morning of Feb. 28, 1953, there emerged in their minds of James D. Watson and Francis H. Crick, how the four important bases namely- Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine and Thymine, would pair and also stack on top of each other to form a double helical molecule which would revolutionize the field of biology. It was a day to celebrate for Watson and crick. They had won the race for finding out the secret of life.

From a long time scientists were trying to find out the secret by which all living organisms are born, reproduce and able to continue generations. Cells divide, multiply, differentiate and makes the life continue. What is the factor that makes a living cell function so co-ordinately? Why all the other cells, organs and tissues are formed at their respective places and nowhere else in the body? What makes them to function on their own? How a single cell is able to pass its genetic information to its daughter cells? Scientists had a large number of questions, but still all trying to find a single answer.

Back in London and Cambridge University, three teams: Linus Pauling, Watson-Crick, and Franklin-Wilkins, were in a race to find the answer to what all were looking for. At last, after 2 years of hard work, with the help of x-ray crystallography images of DNA from Rosalind Franklin, and from the Chargaff rules (A=T and G=C), Watson-Crick, proposed a double helical molecule of DNA, which then became the backbone of biology, giving Watson, Crick and Wilkins the Nobel prize in 1962. “Surely, they had won the race.”

Today after 60 years, DNA has become a center of science. Advancement in technology has made possible to sequence the most complex and longest DNA. Human genome sequencing was completed in 2003, the greatest achievement made ever. Knowing the sequence of DNA, it is now possible to clone any fragment of DNA of any living organism. Recombinant DNA technology has reached the sky. Gene therapy has made possible to detect the mutations for human disorders and try to correct them.

Watson words: “we have made the use of physics and chemistry to understand biology. It is very important to understand that science does not stand by itself, but it is the creation of very human people. To continue in humane spirit towards science is the only goal of every human.”

At last as a joke J. Watson added “Changing the gene for personality and beauty would make all girls beautiful, people say it would be terrible, but i think that would be great.”

-Parth Joshi
Final Year B.Tech Genetic Engineering
SRM University