Research Paper: Discovery of the Structure of DNA by Watson and Crick

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Discovery of the Structure of DNA by Watson and Crick

Arguably, one of the greatest discoveries of human kind has been DNA. This is because its structure holds the key to human evolution, as it is the basic foundation for how all life is created. Simply put, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a double helix formation that contains the elements of: adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine. It can be located in: the nucleus and the mitochondria of a cell. Where, it will contain all the genetic information that is critical in the functioning of our cells and organs in daily life. This is significant, because the Discovery has allowed scientists, to be able to answer numerous questions about the origins of human kind and it has helped to improve research in finding cures for a host of conditions. As a result, numerous debates have been circulating about the possible uses of this technology in a number of different areas. To fully understand the overall issue requires: examining what type of molecules were thought to carry hereditary information, the critical role of other scientists in the discovery, the importance of the human genome project and the various problems that can arise with genetic engineering. Together, these different elements will provide the greatest insights, as to impact that the discovery is having on daily life.

A summary of scientific knowledge about what type of molecules were thought to carry hereditary information before Watson & Crick's discovery

Before the discovery of DNA, it was believed that genes would deliver various hereditary information to the cells. What was not known was: their chemical composition and structure. As many scientists were divided about its composition, with some thinking that these were proteins which carried this information. This is because, of their complexity and the fact that they contain four nucleotide bases. However, by the 1920's these views would slowly start to change as the double helix was first observed. Yet, it was believed that this played a secondary role in determining hereditary information. This is significant, because it shows how the different views of the importance of DNA would change over the decades. Where, it would slowly receive limited amounts of research until the discovery by Watson and Crick in 1953. ("The Search for the Structure of DNA," 2010)

A description of how the discovery was made, including the critical roles of scientists other than Watson & Crick

The first discovery of DNA took place in 1869, as a rough outline of the double helix was identified. However, scientists were unimpressed with what they found and would subsequently focus all research on other aspects of genetics. This would have an impact upon future discoveries, as research was often very limited until the late 1940's. This is when Linus Pauling of the California Institute of Technology would discover a triple helix, tinker toy type of structure in 1950. While the model was incorrect, his research was on the right track. This would open the door for Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins. They would conduct extensive research into the structure and formation of DNA at King's College in London. Where, they would identify the basic double helix model as the building of life. At the time, both Franklin and Wilkins agreed to keep the discovery quite until further research could be conducted. One of the associates on the project was Francis Crick and his assistant James Watson. They would begin working on independently on identifying their own double helix. The problem was that Franklin would keep the photographs of the DNA secret and refused to disclose them to Watson. This would force him to construct his own model from Franklin's lectures. The first one was similar to the model identified by Pauling. When Watson asked Franklin if his model was correct, she told him that is was not and that it was missing several keys molecules. On January 28, 1953 Wilkins would show Crick Photograph 51 (while Franklin was lecturing). What happened was, Wilkins and Franklin were having personal difficulties, which meant that they were not on speaking terms. At Franklin's lecture, Wilkins would see Crick and showed him the photographs. This would fill in all the gaps that Watson and Crick were missing in their theory, as they knew that it was anatomically correct. On April 25, 1953 Watson and Crick would publish their theory in Nature under the title "A Structure for Dexyribose Nucleic Acid." At the same time, Franklin and Wilkins would publish their findings alongside the Watson / Crick article (with all the scientists equally sharing credit). (Rockman, 2004, pp. 273 -- 277)

A description of the human genome project and why it is important

The Human Genome Project began in 1990, with the mission of identifying 30,000 genes of human DNA. At the same time, it determines the sequence of three billion chemical pairs that are a part of human DNA. This is significant, because it allows scientists to understand where humans came from. It also highlights, how the knowledge that is obtained from this research, can be used to cure and treat a host of ailments. (Ejelonu, 2002)

Application of your understanding of molecular genetics to discuss one or more problems that may arise from genetic engineering

A major problem that will arise from genetic engineering is: the use of genetic information. This is when the various information that is being compiled on human DNA; can be used to make an analysis of possible genetic conditions that could affect a particular ethnic or racial group. This is problematic, because the use of this information could determine if someone may or may not have a particular condition later on life such as: the possibility of having diabetes or heart disease. Where, the information that is being provided is useful, yet may not address possible ethical issues. For example, if scientists determine that someone may contract some form of cancer later on life do they tell them? This is problematic, because there is no 100% certainty that this may occur. At the same time, there is the issue as to if medical personnel should disclose this information to them and in what way. When you put these different elements together, this highlights the challenges that are faced with genetic engineering. As scientist, law makers and the general public must grapple with how as well as when this information is released. (Hayry, 2007, pp. 73 -- 74)

A second issue that will arise from genetic engineering is teleology. This is a theory of religious belief that all living beings are created by God for a specific purpose. When you begin to utilize genetic engineering you are altering this belief, by changing the molecular state of organisms. Once this occurs, there could be inadvertent side effects from consuming food that is produced in such a manner. A good example of this can be seen with genetically modified foods, where eating these products could cause a number of side effects to include: allergenicity, gene transfer and outcrossing. Allergenicity is when there is the possibility of receiving allegories from genetically modified foods. Gene transfer is when bacteria can be transmitted from these kinds of foods to the digestive track. Outcrossing is when bacteria can move from genetically modified plants / livestock to traditional plants / livestock. ("20 Questions on Genetically Modified Foods," 2010) This is significant, because it shows how there are specific health issues that could arise from consuming and producing genetically modified foods. (Hayry, 2007, pp. 73 -- 74)

Conclusion

Clearly, the discovery of DNA would have a profound impact upon daily life. As it is being used to: determine the origins of humankind create new kinds of foods, search for cures to various ailments and to determine who could possibly be affected by certain conditions… [END OF PREVIEW]

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