Jul 18, 2017

From the End of Vitalism in 1828 to Overtaking Control Over the Evolution and Nearly over Our Fate in 2128

We are witnesses of an exponential increase – explosion – of our knowledge about ourselves, about our origin and about the substance we are made of. No sooner we have completely recognized our structure, than we are starting to change it. There is still a lot to learn about the mechanisms shaping the quality and length of our lives, but we start to edit our DNA and our future as well.  The  dreams of  ancient alchemists about the  transmutation  of  base metals into  noble ones have come true, and now
their panacea curing any disease and even their dreamed elixir of immortality are becoming nearly reality. Below are several milestones, from the last three hundred years, on our road to almost eternity.
1828 Friedrich Wöhler synthesized organic material urea from inorganic ammonium cyanate, thereby disproving the vitalism theory – the belief that the organic matter could be formed only in the live organisms owing to their special vital force

1866 Gregor Mendel demonstrated existence of discreet inherited traits, later called genes

1869 Friedrich Miescher isolated nucleic acid from the cell nuclei

1919 Phoebus Levene identified nucleic acids components (ATGC) and their chemical structure, and named them nucleotides, he distinguished two types of nucleic acids, RNA (ribonucleic) and DNA (deoxyribonucleic). Undeservedly he is remembered mainly for his incorrect assumption that the nucleotides are linked in DNA equimolar ratios, and strangely he did not get a Nobel Prize

1952 Martha Chase and Alfred Hershey (Nobel Prize, NP, 1969) confirmed that DNA is the genetic material and not proteins or other materials

1952 Frederic Sanger (NP 1958) determined the sequence of amino acids in the protein insulin (51 amino acids) after cutting the molecule to several shorter, defined oligopeptide pieces by peptidase enzymes

1953 James Watson (NP 1962) and Francis Crick (NP 1962) disclosed the double helix structure of DNA made of two reversely oriented (5’3’ and 3’5’) complementary strands, G and C in the opposite strands being bound by three hydrogen bonds, A and T with by two hydrogen bonds

1961 Genetic code was deciphered within 1961-1965 by Marshall Nirenberg (NP 1968), Heinrich Matthaei, Severo Ochoa (NP 1959), Gobind Khorana (NP 1968), Robert Holley (NP 1968) and Philip Leder, showing that each of the 64 nucleotide triplets (codons) represents one of 20 naturally occurring amino acids or a stop signal in the process of translating the nucleotide sequence of the nucleic acids into the amino acid sequence of the proteins, the process occurring on the ribosomes in all cells on Earth

1971 Daniel Nathan (NP 1978) and Kathleen Danna showed that a viral genome can be cut to defined separable DNA pieces by restriction enzymes (restrictases)

1977 Frederic Sanger (Second NP 1980) et al. determined the sequence of nucleotides in the whole genome of fX174 virus having 5386 nucleotides after cutting the molecule to defined oligonucleotide pieces by restrictases, separating the pieces and sequencing them, and deducing their order in the viral genome

1983 Jack Szostak (NP 2009) and many others found the importance of DNA double strand breaks in DNA repair and its potential for artificial DNA modifications within 1983 to 2012, including techniques of meganucleases, ZFN, TALEN, and CRISPR

2001 The human genome was published, haploid 23 chromosomes, 3.2 billion nucleotides in each strand

2012 Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier re-engineered a ready-to-use CRISPR-Cas9 for universal DNA editing

2017 Blindness in thousands of people caused by retinal dystrophy will soon be cured by correcting DNA in retinal cells

2028 Many debilitating diseases will start to be treated via editing DNA

2128 The humans – products of the evolution – together with robots will take full control over the evolution of nearly all species on Earth

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