By Ariane Tsai, C2ST Intern, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Institute for Genomic Biology
It only took four letters to shift scientists’ perspectives on life. For hundreds of years, scientists clung to the belief that proteins were the smallest building blocks of life, and many hypothesized that proteins stored genetic information within them. In 1953, a revelation of unparalleled magnitude shook the scientific community to its core. That year, the double-helical structure of DNA, formed with repeating subunits called nucleotides with four different bases- adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine(C), or guanine (G), was discovered. The revelation of the existence of DNA transformed our understanding of biology and ushered us into a new era of scientific discovery. Since then, scientists have taken great strides in unraveling the mysteries of life, one of them being the biggest undertaking of the scientific community – the Human Genome Project.