HAR GOBIND KHORANA: The Great Mind Behind DNA Synthesis
A living body is made up of many genes. The qualities and traits of a person are determined by the genes in their body. The genes are a key factor for the development and growth of a body. This brings the need of the knowledge of the genetics. India has a history containing many scientists and their discoveries. Even in the field of science and biochemistry, India has made its position due to various scientists.
Har Gobind Khorana was one among those scientists who belonged from India and got such achievements that would definitely make the nation proud. The youngest among the five children, Har Gobind Khorana was born to a very poor family. His birth date is said to be 9th January, 1922 but it is not confirmed and is uncertain. He was born in a village named Raipur in West Pakistan.
Belonging to an educated family was one thing which added on to Har Gobind’s career and life. His father wanted all his children to be educated. So, the primary education of Khorana was done in a village school. He joined D. A. V. High school in Multan. Later, he got a scholarship and he finished his graduation with science from Punjab University in Lahore. Later, in 1945, he got the Master’s degree from the same college.
H.G. Khorana’s brilliance was not hidden from the government and he got another scholarship and he went to University of Liverpool. He got the doctorate degree from England. Later he joined Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, Zurich to get Post PhD degree. There, under the influence of his professor, Vladimir Prelog, Khorana’s thinking and perspective towards science changed. The knowledge gained by Khorana was used by him to study about fungicides and insecticides.
H.G. Khorana started his working career by joining the University of British Columbia university under Dr Gordon M Shrum. Even though there was a lack of resources in the University, Khorana was allowed to research on whatever he wanted. He along with his colleagues started the research on nucleic acid and phosphate esters.
In 1960s, after joining University of Wisconsin, he started research on enzymes and found a chemical, called RNA which could translate the information about the genes in DNA. He explained about the composition of RNA which was represented by letters A, D, U and G. This was indeed one of his biggest achievements.
Khorana also found other facts about DNA. He explained that the DNA is made of nucleotides and he also showed the coding of these nucleotides in a DNA. Not only this, Khorana was the first person to create an artificial gene. He also created genes in a bacteria cell. He also studied about a protein found in the eye, rhodospin.
Har Gobind Khorana was one person because of whom the field of Genetic engineering came into being. He was honoured with Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1968.
Har Gobind Khorana’s major contributions and achievements
- After doctorate studies, Khorana continued his research. In 1960, he was offered a position at Institute for Enzyme research at the University of Wisconsin.
- Khorana developed keen interest in studying RNA.
- In 1970 he became Alfred Sloan Professor at Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) for Biology and Chemistry. He continued there till his retirement in 2007.
- In 1972 he was successful in constructing the first artificial gene. He has made a commendable contribution in the field of Genetic Engineering especially in DNA synthesis.
- In 1968, Har Gobind Khorana was awarded Nobel Prize in physiology along with Marshall W. Nirenberg and Robert W. Holley for their work on ‘interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein syntheses’.
Khorana left the world in 2011 but in his lifetime he has helped the world by his great achievement on DNA synthesis which is definitely going to bring new inventions in future.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
University of Wisconsin-Madison