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Born on this Day Building Work

28 January 2020

Building Work

DNA is the biological instruction manual for life, but anyone who’s assembled a flatpack wardrobe knows that getting from instructions to final product isn’t straightforward. Sequences of DNA are transcribed into an intermediate copy, called messenger RNA. This message is passed onto the machinery that builds proteins, the building blocks of our bodies. But details of how this message is translated weren’t known until research by Robert W. Holley – born on this day in 1922 – described the structure of another player in the process: transfer RNA. By repeatedly breaking it apart and reassembling, he pieced together its fine detail, helping to reveal how it steers the appropriate protein parts towards the assembly line. This discovery paved the way for future work outlining the sequence of genes and earned him a share of the 1968 Nobel Prize, before he went on to apply his chemistry excellence to further mysteries of life.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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