When the genes should cheat

When the genes should cheat

Dhe human beings would acquire a cultural technique through the targeted manipulation of genes that is not simply to be understood as gene surgery and thus as a revolution of a new, salvific caste of biotechnicians, that occupied Paul Berg shortly after his groundbreaking experiments on the “Hybrid -genome”.

Joachim Müller-Jung

Editor in the feuilleton, responsible for the “Nature and Science” department.

A little over fifty years ago, with his tumor virus research, he succeeded in getting into the small, easy-to-transmit genetic material – the DNA – to introduce some genes from E. coli bacteria from SV40 viruses. On the basis of this viral DNA equipped with foreign genes, he was able to examine how the viruses are involved in the development of cancer. Berg, who was already at Stanford University and in close contact with the most important genetic researchers of his time, created the first DNA molecule composed of elements from different organisms.

With the development of “recombinant DNA technology”, the New York native became one of the most influential bioengineers of the 20th century. Also because the pedagogically ambitious Paul Berg made his colleagues think. Even before he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980, together with Walter Gilbert and Fred Sanger for their invention of gene decoding, Berg had curbed the burgeoning euphoria about genetic engineering with an unprecedented closed meeting: at the Asilomar Conference, which he helped to initiate In 1975, scientists from all over the world agreed on a research moratorium lasting several years – no further genetic manipulations were to take place until the safety of the new DNA technology had been clarified. A process of reflection that continues into the present day of more advanced genome editing. As has just become known, Paul Berg died on February 15 at the age of 96 in his apartment on the Stanford campus.

Source link