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HAR GOBIND KHORANA

HAR GOBIND KHORANA

  • Har Gobind Khorana was a biochemist who shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Marshall W. Nirenberg and Robert W. Holley for research that helped to show how the nucleotides in nucleic acids, which carry the genetic code of the cell, control the cell’s synthesis of proteins.
  • He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1966, and subsequently received the National Medal of Science. He served as MIT’s Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Biology and Chemistry, Emeritus and was a member of the Board of Scientific Governors at The Scripps Research Institute.
  • Ribonucleic acid (RNA) with three repeating units (UCUCUCU – UCU CUC UCU) produced two alternating amino acids. This, combined with the Nirenberg and Leder experiment, showed that UCU codes for Serine and CUC codes for Leucine. RNAs with three repeating units (UACUACUA  – UAC UAC UAC, or ACU ACU ACU, or CUA CUA CUA) produced three different strings of amino acids. RNAs with four repeating units including UAG, UAA, or UGA, produced only dipeptides and tripeptides thus revealing that UAG, UAA and UGA are stop codons.
  • With this, Khorana and his team had established that the mother of all codes, the biological language common to all living organisms, is spelled out in three-letter words: each set of three nucleotides codes for a specific amino acid. Khorana was the first scientist to synthesize oligonucleotides.                  HAR GOBIND KHORANA

Subsequent research

  • He extended the above to long DNA Polymers using non-aqueous chemistry and assembled these into the first synthetic gene, using polymerase and ligase enzymes that link pieces of DNA together as well as methods that anticipated the invention of PCR.
  • These custom-designed pieces of artificial genes are widely used in biology labs for sequencing, cloning and engineering new plants and animals.
  • This invention of Khorana has become automated and commercialized so that anyone now can order a synthetic gene from any of a number of companies. One merely needs to send the genetic sequence to one of the companies to receive an oligonucleotide with the desired sequence.
  • His lab has since mid 1970s studied the biochemistry of the membrane protein bacteriorhodopsin responsible for converting photon energy into proton gradient energy and most recently studying the structural related visual pigment rhodopsin.                              HAR GOBIND KHORANA

Legacy

  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Government of India (DBT Department of Biotechnology), and the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum jointly created the Khorana Program in 2007. The mission of the Khorana Program is to build a seamless community of scientists, industrialists, and social entrepreneurs in the United States and India.
  • The program is focused on three objectives: Providing graduate and undergraduate students with a transformative research experience, engaging partners in rural development and food security, and facilitating public-private partnerships between the U.S. and India.                        HAR GOBIND KHORANA
  • In 2009, Khorana was hosted by the Khorana Program and honored at the 33rd Steenbock Symposium in Madison, Wisconsin.

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SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

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