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Friedrich Miescher and the discovery of DNA

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Dahm,  R
Department Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Dahm, R. (2005). Friedrich Miescher and the discovery of DNA. Developmental Biology, 278(2), 274-288. doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2004.11.028.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-B08C-1
Abstract
Over the past 60 years, DNA has risen from being an obscure molecule with presumed accessory or structural functions inside the nucleus to the icon of modern bioscience. The story of DNA often seems to begin in 1944 with Avery, MacLeod, and McCarty showing that DNA is the hereditary material. Within 10 years of their experiments, Watson and Crick deciphered its structure and yet another decade on the genetic code was cracked. However, the DNA story has already begun in 1869, with the young Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher. Having just completed his education as a physician, Miescher moved to Tübingen to work in the laboratory of biochemist Hoppe-Seyler, his aim being to elucidate the building blocks of life. Choosing leucocytes as his source material, he first investigated the proteins in these cells. However, during these experiments, he noticed a substance with unexpected properties that did not match those of proteins. Miescher had obtained the first crude purification of DNA. He further examined the properties and composition of this enigmatic substance and showed that it fundamentally differed from proteins. Due to its occurrence in the cells' nuclei, he termed the novel substance "nuclein"--a term still preserved in today's name deoxyribonucleic acid.