Happy DNA Day!!!!
So, it’s April 20th and you want to celebrate DNA day, but aren’t sure how? What about making chocolate smoothies in honor of Alfred Hershey and Barbara Chase, the rockin’ scientists whose experiment finally convinced everybody that the information for your traits (i.e. genes) was contained in DNA rather than in protein, which was the other contender . They made their discovery 60 years ago so now’s a good time to call them out.
Now, 1952 was a prosperous time in America and while folks were makin’ babies, watching TV and buying $0.20/gallon gasoline to fuel their big, beautiful cars, Hershey and Chase were hanging out on Long Island at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, mixin’ up phage (bacteriophage) and E. coli. Phage are viruses that infect bacteria and when they do that they bring genetic information along with them. Hershey and Chase had the genius idea that if they labeled the different parts of the phage with radioactivity and then tracked which parts went INTO the bacteria, they could figure out what genes were made of. So, they labeled the phage protein with radioactive sulfur or the phage DNA with radioactive phosphorous and added it to the bacteria for a little while. Then they used a blender (like the vintage Waring blender pictured here) to knock off any parts of the phage stuck to the outside of the bacteria and, lo and behold, the radioactive DNA was inside the cells carrying the genes and the radioactive protein got knocked off of the cells and floated away.
The results of the Hershey Chase experiment paved the way for the golden era of molecular biology and actually made people care about the big paper Watson and Crick put out the next year that proposed the structure of DNA.
So, HAPPY DNA DAY! Here’s how you can use YOUR blender to pay delicious tribute to these important scientists.