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Recombinant DNA: The First Report

By | October 1, 2006

Credit: COURTESY OF TERRY SHARRER" /> Credit: COURTESY OF TERRY SHARRER In a series of experiments in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Stanley Cohen, Herbert Boyer, and their colleagues developed the techniques necessary to recombine genes in bacterial plasmids, allowing for their mass production and launching recombinant biotechnology as we know it. In 1973, the Cohen-Boyer team introduced a plasmid fragment from one strain of Escherichia coli, conferring kanamycin resistance in


The First Automated Amino Acid Analyzer

By | September 1, 2006

Stanford Moore and William Stein pictured at the Moore-Stein-Spackman analyzer, 1965. Credit: COURTESY OF THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION" />Stanford Moore and William Stein pictured at the Moore-Stein-Spackman analyzer, 1965. Credit: COURTESY OF THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION Frederick Sanger presented the first complete amino acid sequence of a protein (insulin) after 12 years of painstaking biochemistry involving partial hydrolysis and proteolytic cleavage. Needless to say, the process co


The "Eppy"

By | August 1, 2006

Credit: COURTESY OF EPPENDORF AG" /> Credit: COURTESY OF EPPENDORF AG Near the end of 1962, Wilhelm Bergmann, an Eppendorf development engineer, designed the first successful disposable tube for handling microliter volumes. Employing the durability of polypropylene, which can withstand centrifugation speeds up to 30,000 times that of gravity (or more depending on the fit of the centrifuge), and designed with a tight-fitting, attached lid that can be opened and closed with one han


The First Immortal Cell Line

By | July 1, 2006

Credit: COURTESY OF TERRY SHARRER (FLASK), GRETCHEN DARLINGTON (INSET)" /> Credit: COURTESY OF TERRY SHARRER (FLASK), GRETCHEN DARLINGTON (INSET) Growing cells outside the body began in 1907 with the work of Ross Harrison at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and continued in the hands of Alexis Carrel and Montrose Burrows at the Rockefeller Institute. These investigators figured out the nutrient solutions that kept cells alive for extended periods of time and allowed them to


The Discovery of Reverse Transcriptase

By | June 1, 2006

Credit: COURTESY OF DAVID BALTIMORE" /> Credit: COURTESY OF DAVID BALTIMORE In the spring of 1970 two young investigators shook the foundations of molecular biology's "central dogma," which holds that DNA is transcribed to RNA, which in turn is translated into protein. David Baltimore, then a 32-year-old virologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was studying RNA viruses, trying to understand how they replicate their genomes. Hypothesizing the presence of a virus-assoc


Chromatin Immunoprecipitation

By | May 1, 2006

Credit: RENATO PARO" /> Credit: RENATO PARO Early in the summer of 1991, Valerio Orlando, a postdoc in Renato Paro's lab at the University of Heidelberg, began working on the problem of identifying where proteins bind to chromatin in vivo. Researchers had already figured out how to determine whether a particular protein bound to a specific sequence in vitro. But what about protein occupancy in a living cell? Orlando and Paro's idea was simple: Crosslink protein-DNA complexes using


The First DNA Sequence Database

By | April 1, 2006

Credit: COURTESY OF GREG HAMM" /> Credit: COURTESY OF GREG HAMM In the middle of 1981, Greg Hamm was a 30-year-old software programmer newly hired by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory to head up its DNA data library-a database that did not yet exist. So he set about making one. "We had journals publishing sequence data in increasingly small point size type, which was useless," he says. "It was clear that one thing that was needed was a transmission format, a way to send the data f


The First Commercial UV-Vis Spectrometer

By | March 1, 2006

Credit: © AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY" /> Credit: © AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY Leading into World War II, American scientists scrambled for a way to determine what vitamins, particularly vitamin A, were in food in order to keep US soldiers well-nourished. But state-of-the-art ultraviolet and visible (UV-vis) spectrophotometry, which measures electronic transitions of a wide range of molecules as they absorb light, was cumbersome and expensive. In July 1941, Arnold


The First Automated DNA Sequencer

By | February 1, 2006

Credit: Courtesy of Lloyd M. Smith" /> Credit: Courtesy of Lloyd M. Smith Lloyd M. Smith joined Lee Hood?s CalTech laboratory in 1982 with the idea that he would finally get to do ?real biology.? Having come from a chemistry background, people suggested that he learn DNA sequencing to get a handle on molecular biology. ?Although it was really interesting to learn because there were so many new techniques that one had to master ? it turns out once you get those techniques down it was a


The Original Micropipette

By | January 1, 2006

The micropipette was invented in 1957 at University of Marburg, Germany by postdoc Heinrich Schnitger. Frustrated by repetitive pipetting of small volumes using glass micropipettes, Schnitger developed a prototype with a spring-loaded piston and a removable plastic tip for containing liquid. All the major features of the present-day micropipettes were incorporated into the prototype, shown above, which was patented in 195


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