Genetics: Timeline of key events

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Snell was a major founder of immunogenetics as a discipline. He is best known for helping to identify the major histocompatibility complex, a group of genes that code for proteins found on the surface of cells that help the immune system differentiate between self and nonself cells, and demonstrating its role in tissue graft rejection. This work laid the foundation for carrying out successful transplants in both animals and humans. Snell shared the 1980 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immunological reactions'.1996-06-06T00:00:00+0000Mazia was an American cell biologist whose passion was to understand how cells reproduce. As a doctoral researcher he was one of the first to establish the role of calcium in egg activation in the process of fertilisation. Following this, he worked on the process of cell division, structure and division. He is best known for the work he did in 1931 which helped identify the cell structure responsible for mitosis, the process when a eukaryotic cell divides chromosomes into two identical daughter cells. Mazia also determined how the nucleus and chromosomes change during the cell cycle. 1996-06-09T00:00:00+0000A geneticist by training, Sager enjoyed two careers. She first made her mark in the 1950s and 1950s when she discovered the transmission of genetic traits through chloroplast DNA. This was the first example of genetics not involving the cell nucleus. Later on, in the early 1970s, she became a major pioneer in cancer genetics. She was one of the first to propose and investigate the function of tumour suppressor genes. 1997-03-29T00:00:00+0000Hershey was an American bacteriologist and geneticist. He is best known for a series of experiments with bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) which helped to confirm that DNA rather than proteins carried genetic material. These he performed with Martha Chase in 1952. Hershey shared the 1969 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses.' 1997-05-22T00:00:00+0000Introduction of RNA into cells is shown to silence genes in the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. This led to the coining of the rerm 'RNA interference'. A Fire, S Xu, M K Montgomery, S A Kostas, S E Driver, C C Mello, 'Potent and specific genetic interference by double-stranded RNA in Caenorhabditis elegans', Nature, 391 (1998), 806–11.1998-02-01T00:00:00+0000Fraenkel-Conrat was a German-American biochemist who discovered that RNA is pivotal to the genetic control of viral reproduction and that it is carried in the nucelic core of each virus. This indicated that the viral infectivity resides in the nucleic acid part of the virus. He made this finding in 1955 during experiments with the tobacco mosaic virus. By 1960 he had determined the complete sequence of the 159 amino acids in the virus. His work demonstrated that virus molecules that retain viral life can be reconstituted from its separate protein and RNA.1999-04-10T00:00:00+0000M. Toyota, N. Ahuja, M. Ohe-Toyota, J.G. Herman, S.B. Baylin, J-P.J. Issa, 'CpG island methylator phenotype in colorectal cancer', PNAS, 96/15 (1999), 8681–86.1999-07-20T00:00:00+0000H.D. Morgan, H.G. Sutherland, D.I. Martin, E. Whitelaw, 'Epigenetic inheritance at the agouti locus in the mouse', Nature Genetics, 23 (1991), 314–18.1999-11-01T00:00:00+0000Michael Smith shared the 1993 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for a technique that enables researchers to introduce specific mutations into genes and, thus, to the proteins that they encode. He developed the method, known as site-directed mutagenesis, in the 1970s, in collaboration with Fred Sanger and Clyde A Hutchinson III. The advantage of the technique was that it allowed comparisons to be made of different protein molecules and provide a means to deliberately alter a specific gene thereby making it possible to modify the characteristics of an organism. His work opened up a new chapter for studying and treating genetic diseases. Site-directed mutagenesis is a pivotal tool today in genetic and protein research and engineering and at the forefront of the development of monoclonal antibody drugs. 2000-10-04T00:00:00+0000Clarke was a British physician and geneticist who was one of the first to appreciate the importance of medical genetics in day-to-day clinical practice. Based on his knowledge of how genetics dictated the colour of wing patterns in butterflies, he became interested in the inheritance of human blood types. This paved the way to his development of measures to prevent rhesus haemolytic disease of the newborn. Such babies, born of a positive-Rhesus factor father and a negative-Rhesus factor mother, can result in a fatal anaemia in babies. Clarke established the Nuffield Unit for medical genetics in Liverpool. 2000-11-21T00:00:00+00002001-01-01T00:00:00+0000Research led by Frank J Rauscher, published in Genes and Development.2002-04-14T00:00:00+0000Research carried out by Ramin Shiekhattar published in Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2002-08-20T00:00:00+0000A British molecular biologist, Smith was a key pioneer in nucleic acid research. One of the few to realise the importance of nucleic acids before Watson and Crick uncovered the structure of DNA in 1953, Smith helped to elucidate the structure of ribonucleic acid molecules (RNA), the genetic material of many plant and animal viruses. This was helped by his development of paper chromatographic methods for analysing nucelosides and other units which make up DNA. He also helped to discover rare and unexpected modifications of DNA bases in bacterial genomes which are now understood to prevent attack from DNA viruses.2003-11-22T00:00:00+00002004-01-01T00:00:00+0000Lewis was an American developmental geneticist who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development. He made these discoveries based on the fruit fly. By crossbreeding thousands of flies he demonstrated that genes were arranged on the chromosome in the same order as their body segments, whereby the first set of genes controls the development of the head and thorax, the middle set the abdomen, and the final set the hind parts. He also discovered that the genetic regulatory functions could overlap. A fly with a defective gene in the thoracic region could develop an extra set of wings. His work helped explain the causes of congenital deformities. 2004-07-21T00:00:00+0000Crick is best known for the work he did with James Watson that identified the double-helix structure of DNA in 1953, for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1962. He also developed the central dogma of molecular biology which explained how genetic information flowed within a biological system, moving from DNA to RNA and then protein. His subsequent work looked at the way in which the brain works and the nature of consciousness.2004-07-28T00:00:00+0000Wilkins was a New Zealand biophysicist whose development of x-ray diffraction techniques helped determine the structure of DNA. He obtained the first x-ray patterns on DNA in 1950. This work led to his winning the Nobel Prize in 1962. Following his work on DNA, Wilkins directed his attention to studying the structure of various forms of RNA and a wide group of genetic problems, like ageing. In his younger years, Wilkins was recruited to work on the Manhattan atomic bomb project during the war. Wilkins became profoundly disillusioned with nuclear weapons after the bombing of Japan and was the president of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science from 1969 to 1991. 2004-10-05T00:00:00+0000Study conducted by team led by Shelley Berger published in Molecular Cell.2005-02-17T00:00:00+0000Drug made by MGI Pharma. approved for treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes, bone marrow disorders2006-01-01T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
6 Jun 1996George D Snell diedSnellJackson LaboratoryGenetics, Immunology, Transplantation
9 Jun 1996Daniel Mazia diedMaziaUniversity of California BerkeleyCell, Genetics, Reproduction
29 Mar 1997Ruth Sager diedSagerRockefeller UniversityGenetics, Oncology
22 May 1997Alfred D Hershey diedHersheyCarnegie Institution of WashingtonGenetics, Virology
Feb 1998Double stranded RNA demonstrated to be potent mechanism for silencing genesFire, Mello, Xu, Montgomery, Kostas, Driver, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Johns Hopkins University, University of Massachusetts Cancer CenterRNA interference, Genetics
10 Apr 1999Heinz Ludwig Fraenkel-Conrat diedFraenkel-Conrat University of California BerkeleyGenetics, Virology
20 Jul 1999DNA methylation of CpG islands shown to be linked to colorectal cancerToyota, Ahuja, Ohe-Toyota, Herman, Baylin, IssaJohns Hopkins UniversityDNA methylation, Epigenetics, Oncology
Nov 1999First evidence from mammals that epigenetic changes can be passed down generations Morgan, Sutherland, Martin, WhitelawUniversity of SydneyEpigenetics
4 Oct 2000Michael Smith diedMichael SmithUniversity of British ColumbiaGene editing, Genetics, Monoclonal antibodies
21 Nov 2000Cyril A Clarke diedClarkeLiverpool UniversityGenetics
2001Pharmion licenses azacitidine from Pharmacia and Upjohn to Pharmacia's azacityidine technology, patents and clinical data  Epigenetics
Apr 2002Identification of new enzyme for silencing certain genes, opening new avenues for cancer treatmentsRauscherWistar InstituteGenetics
20 Aug 2002Link identified between genes responsible for neurofibromatosis, a common neurological disorder, and a protein thought to play role in Alzheimer's diseaseShiekhattarWistar InstituteNeuroscience, Genetics
22 Nov 2003John D Smith diedJohn D SmithCalifornia Institute of Technology, Laboratory of Molecular BiologyGenetics, DNA, RNA
2004FDA approved first DNA methylation inhibitor drug, azacitidine (Vidaza®), for treatment of rare bone marrow disorder  DNA methylation, Epigenetics
21 Jul 2004Edward B Lewis diedLewisCalifornia Institute of TechnologyGenetics, Embryology
28 Jul 2004Francis H C Crick diedCrickLaboratory of Molecular BiologyDNA, Genetics
5 Oct 2004Maurice H F Wilkins diedWilkinsKing's College LondonDNA, Genetics
Feb 2005Enzyme Ubp10 demonstrated to protect the genome from potential destabilising molecular eventsBerger, EmreWistar InstituteDNA, Genetics
2006FDA approved second DNA methylation inhibitior, decatabine (Dacogen)  DNA methylation, Epigenetics

6 Jun 1996

George D Snell died

9 Jun 1996

Daniel Mazia died

29 Mar 1997

Ruth Sager died

22 May 1997

Alfred D Hershey died

Feb 1998

Double stranded RNA demonstrated to be potent mechanism for silencing genes

10 Apr 1999

Heinz Ludwig Fraenkel-Conrat died

20 Jul 1999

DNA methylation of CpG islands shown to be linked to colorectal cancer

Nov 1999

First evidence from mammals that epigenetic changes can be passed down generations

4 Oct 2000

Michael Smith died

21 Nov 2000

Cyril A Clarke died

2001

Pharmion licenses azacitidine from Pharmacia and Upjohn to Pharmacia's azacityidine technology, patents and clinical data

Apr 2002

Identification of new enzyme for silencing certain genes, opening new avenues for cancer treatments

20 Aug 2002

Link identified between genes responsible for neurofibromatosis, a common neurological disorder, and a protein thought to play role in Alzheimer's disease

22 Nov 2003

John D Smith died

2004

FDA approved first DNA methylation inhibitor drug, azacitidine (Vidaza®), for treatment of rare bone marrow disorder

21 Jul 2004

Edward B Lewis died

28 Jul 2004

Francis H C Crick died

5 Oct 2004

Maurice H F Wilkins died

Feb 2005

Enzyme Ubp10 demonstrated to protect the genome from potential destabilising molecular events

2006

FDA approved second DNA methylation inhibitior, decatabine (Dacogen)

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