In 1953, two biochemists James Watson and Francis Crick, walked into a pub in Cambridge and declared: “We have discovered the secret of life!” They weren’t exaggerating. They had worked out the structure of DNA and, with it, unlocked many of the mysteries of how living things make and replicate themselves.
They owed their discovery in part to the work of Rosalind Franklin and her PhD student Raymond Gosling, who took the now famous ‘Photo 51’, which showed the pattern formed by passing X-rays through a sample of DNA. By studying this image, Watson and Crick deduced the double helix structure of DNA.
This saga is just one of the many instances throughout history where breakthroughs have only been possible by building on the discoveries of others – as Newton so aptly put it, “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”. And that is the case for the field of genetics – discovering the structure of DNA eventually enabled the human genome to be decoded and creatures like Dolly the sheep to be cloned.
The latest issue from the Focus Magazine Collection starts by looking at the basics of genetics, explaining all those terms that you might have heard of but maybe don’t know exactly what they mean – DNA, genes, chromosomes, base pairs, nucleotides, epigenetics... We then focus on your health and how new discoveries in genetics are enabling breakthroughs, such as gene therapy to cure blindness and treatments to battle ageing, as well as discussing the new era of medicines tailored specially to your genome.
Finally, we look at the future of genetics from cloning to genetic modification. Reading this special issue will help you understand more about what makes you ‘you’ and what the future holds for us and other creatures on this planet.
Order your copy for only £9.99 with FREE UK postage if you are a UK subscriber to BBC Focus Magazine, £11.49 for non-subscribers (EUR £12.99, ROW £13.49) – visit www.buysubscriptions.com or call 03330 162 138.
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