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Dna

Dna

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Published by USER 15
... berbagai jenis DNA ada disini, antara lain ...
... berbagai jenis DNA ada disini, antara lain ...

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Published by: USER 15 on Sep 26, 2010
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10/02/2014

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DNA, the Keeper of Life's Secrets, Starts to Talk 
DNA, penjaga rahasia kehidupan, mulai dibicarakan
 
Fifty years ago, on Saturday, Feb. 28, 1953, two young scientists walked into the Eagle, adingy pub in Cambridge, England, and announced to the lunchtime crowd that they haddiscovered the secret of life.By divining the chemical structure of DNA, the archive of life, James D. Watson andFrancis Crick had seen how the molecule could encode information in the copious quantitiesnecessary to program a living cell.Years later Dr. Crick's wife, Odile, told him she had not believed him, he has written. "Youwere always coming home and saying things like that, so naturally I thought nothing of it," shesaid.But on that occasion the claim was true, and it set in motion a revolution that has continuedto unfold to this day, much of it guided by the two original discoverers.Research is a slow process, often with years between each eureka, and even today the DNArevolution remains largely behind laboratory doors, in the form of biologists' ever intensifyingunderstanding of the mechanisms of life. But a few powerful inventions ² forensic DNA, a newwave of DNA-based drugs ² have already had considerable effect, and many researchers believe they are just a foretaste.They expect new medical treatments and diagnostic tests, based on a thoroughunderstanding of DNA, for cancer, heart disease and other long intractable maladies. Yet likeany powerful technology, DNA will doubtless bring vexing choices: whether to modify thehuman genome with inheritable genes that will eliminate disease and enhance desired qualities,for one.And there are outright dangers, like the possibility that DNA techniques will be used tomake novel biological weapons.The 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA's double helix may be more than just a roundnumber. It comes while both its founders are still alive and active: Dr. Crick published an articleon the nature of consciousness just this month.The human genome, obtained in a very rough draft in 2001, is becoming more polished. New technologies have been invented for interpreting the genome's enigmatic archive. Biologicallaboratories are engaged in a thousandfold scale-up, from studying one gene at a time toexamining whole genomes. And DNA, after a long gestation, is in the throes of passing from a pure science to an applied one.After figuring out the structure of DNA, Dr. Crick and Dr. Watson realized that the sequenceof units in the DNA must carry the code in some way for the structure of the proteins that are theworking parts of a cell. But they did not foresee that the entire genomes would one day bedecoded.
 
"Did we appreciate how important DNA was? Yes we did," Dr. Crick said in an interviewthis month from his home in Southern California. "We did see the shape of the genetic code. Butwe didn't foresee rapid sequencing."Although the text of the genomic message is an eye-glazing march of A's, G's, C's and T'sthat then require years of interpretation, the genome era has already raised biology to a new scaleof operations and amplified the tools at biologists' disposal."The pace of discovery is going unbelievably fast," Dr. Watson said in an interview lastmonth at his Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island.The Watson-Crick discovery showed that DNA records genetic information in the form of afour-letter alphabet. But obtaining the text of the message that evolution has taken some four  billion years to compile was no easy task. It was another 20 years, in the mid-1970's, before oneof their Cambridge colleagues, Dr. Fred Sanger, worked out an ingenious method for determining the order of the letters in a stretch of DNA.But Dr. Sanger's method was manual and could decode long DNA messages only with greatdifficulty. Others, chiefly scientists at Applied Biosystems, had to automate the method anddesign DNA sequencing machines that could handle genome-size lengths of DNA. Another essential advance was the PCR technique, invented by Dr. Kary Mullis, for amplifying definedstretches of DNA into workable quantities.The genome era began on May 25, 1995, when Dr. J. Craig Venter announced that he haddecoded the first genome of a single-celled organism, a bacterium known as Haemophilusinfluenzae. Since then about a hundred bacterial, plant and animal genomes have been decoded,including the C. elegans roundworm, the Drosophila fruit fly and the mouse ² laboratoryorganisms of vital interest to biologists.With whole genomes available for study, biologists can at last begin to see the precisemechanics of natural selection, the process that Darwin intuited without any knowledge of its physical basis.As each new genome is deciphered, the tree of life comes into clearer focus. Even creaturesas far apart as man and mouse have turned out to possess amazingly similar sets of genes, eachwith a similar sequence of DNA units. So far each new genome has turned out to have somenovel genes special to its own species, as well as a core set having to do with the cell's basicoperations, which seem very ancient and probably trace back close to the origin of life.This genomic data ² three billion units apiece for animals like mice and humans ² has presented biologists with a whole new set of challenges. New devices, called microarrays or expression chips, have been invented for examining the activity of thousands of genes at a time.A set of special chemicals, known as an RNAi library, was announced last month for inactivatingeach of the genes in the laboratory roundworm.A thriving new branch of science, often called computational or "in silico" biology, hasemerged to analyze the genes and other component parts of a genome and to compare onegenome to another. These techniques, developed for handling many genes at a time, give
 
 biologists hope that they can understand the whole human genome, now thought to contain some30,000 or so genes."A constellation of things is going on that make this a special time in biology," said Dr.Thomas Cech, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which finances major  biomedical research. "Many of us underestimated how powerful a tool the genome would be. To be able to ask a question of 30,000 genes at the same time and let the system tell you the answer is incredibly exciting. You can unveil a process in a single-celled organism and then usecomputers to discover by in silico experiments the human counterpart. That in itself has largelytransformed the way a lot of biology is done."The ability, gift of the genome sequence, to track thousands of genes at the same time puts biologists in the position of being able to analyze the living cell in action as it does itshousekeeping or responds to the ceaseless chatter of signals from its neighbors.The genomic era is also bringing about a quantum leap in biologists' capabilities, drawingalmost within contemplation one of biology's ultimate goals, that of understanding a wholeorganism in terms of its DNA.For now, the DNA revolution is largely confined to understanding nature, not changing it.Yet the few applications that have already appeared leave little doubt of the technology's potential.DNA as a means of individual identification, first invented by Sir Alec Jeffreys of theUniversity of Leicester in England in 1984, has developed into a hallmark forensic technique,strong enough to overturn verdicts based on shakier forms of evidence like eyewitness testimony.Applied to stored biological evidence, DNA fingerprinting has proven the innocence of many convicted inmates. To date the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, run by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld, has exonerated 124 people. In Illinois, DNAevidence cleared so many death row inmates that Gov. George Ryan lost confidence in his state's justice system. Just before leaving office last month, he commuted all death sentences to prisonterms of life or less.DNA testing has jolted the justice system because, properly used, it is an almost infallibleidentifier of biological tissue. In Britain, which collects DNA from everyone convicted of acrime, a growing database has allowed the police to score many "cold hits," the match of DNAfrom tissue at a crime scene to someone not on any list of suspects. The impressive reach of DNA fingerprinting, both to snare the guilty and clear the innocent, has prompted suggestions for larger DNA databases, as well as counterarguments from civil libertarians.DNA is also an unrivaled genealogical archive. By examining the DNA of the living, biologists can reach back and resolve many otherwise inaccessible questions. DNA evidence hasadded weight to the oral tradition, dismissed by almost all historians, that Thomas Jefferson hada second, unacknowledged family with his slave Sally Hemings. From the DNA of people livingtoday, geneticists can infer the size of the ancestral human population and track its movementsacross the globe as the first modern humans dispersed from Africa.

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