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DNA sequencing technique

revealing the genetic code East Anglia,

Lines of grey and black dots.
An Autoradiogram of a dideoxy sequencing gel. Sanger Institute

The most common method used to ‘read’ DNA code to reveal the genetic ‘recipe’ of an organism was developed in Cambridge. While working at the UK Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, biologist Frederick Sanger (born 1918) developed a new process for determining the exact order of genetic ‘letters’ - chemical units called bases - which relied on DNA’s natural ability to copy itself. With this new method, Sanger and his team in the 1970s mapped out the DNA of a virus that infects bacteria and the first human genome, that of mitochondria, the cell’s ‘power packs’. 

Sanger’s method, which earned him his second Nobel Prize, was later used on the Human Genome Project which ran between 1990 and 2003 and aimed to decode genetic information in the nucleus of human cells. Sequencing has given rise to novel diagnostics and forensic methods, profound insights into the way organisms are related and the way they work, and paved the way for an unprecedented ability to manipulate life, or even create synthetic biologies. 

Science Museum

Decade
Type
Biology,
Region
East Anglia
Location
University of Cambridge
Key Individuals
Frederick Sanger,