Well, let’s face it; if it were not for biochemist Herbert Boyer and geneticist Stanley Cohen collaborating 40 years ago to develop a method for manipulating the expression of genes and gene products, I probably wouldn’t be here. You might not either. Well… we would probably be “here”, as in, “on Earth”, but maybe not in our current professions. It was 40 years ago this year that these two inquisitive researchers, through a series of splicing and dicing with endonucleases and a little bit of clean-up work from our good friend DNA ligase, created the world’s first recombinant organism—E. coli cells expressing ribosomal RNA from the African clawed toad. Note that, at the time, this technology was not really “new” per se, but merely in its infancy; it was inefficient and did not accommodate modified DNA. Scientists were able to transform cells with DNA, but Cohen’s work was really the first to use a plasmid as a more efficient vector for the recombinant DNA. This paved the way for modern genetic engineering and, seemingly, endless possibilities with the new ideas and techniques that these brilliant minds gave to the world. So, next time someone starts a joke with, “A biochemist and a geneticist walk into a bar…,” you can show off your knowledge and proudly shout, “Recombinant DNA Technology!!!”
Author: Josh Miller, BA, is a Production Scientist at IDT.