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Not just "a clever way to detect whether DNA really made RNA": The invention of DNA-RNA hybridization and its outcome



Not just "a clever way to detect whether DNA really made RNA": The invention of DNA-RNA hybridization and its outcome



Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 53: 40-52



The invention of DNA-RNA hybridization in 1960 by Ben Hall and Sol Spiegelman had a powerful impact on the theory and discourse of molecular biology. Yet, despite its importance, the story of this invention has barely been told. Hybridization allowed biologists to bridge the theoretical realm and the material world of organisms, to correlate a hypothetical concept of biological information transfer with a mechanism capable of making an RNA copy of DNA. During the early 1960s, Spiegelman and coworkers employed hybridization to investigate the origin of RNAs found in cells. They operationally defined messenger RNA and elucidated several aspects of genome organization. For Spiegelman, this was the culmination of his longstanding interest in the mechanism of enzyme/protein synthesis; for Hall, it was the beginning of a successful career in genetics. Other scientists immediately recognized the power of the technique and introduced improvements. In 1965, Gillespie and Spiegelman combined several modifications and described a procedure for hybridization that became standard. Since the 1970s, it has become an essential tool in biology and in biotechnology, and a core component in molecular techniques such as DNA microarrays. Notwithstanding its current success, the inventors' names have disappeared from the literature. This curiosity is discussed.

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Accession: 058427798

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PMID: 26209888

DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2015.07.002


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