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Friday, April 25, 2003

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find related articles. powered by google. The Economist Back to bases

"As a scientific model, the double helix opened the way to answering many lingering questions in genetics: how hereditary information is stored, how it is copied and passed on from one generation to another, how genetic damage is repaired and how information flows from the level of the gene to the marvellous structures of nature. But the double helix has invaded the wider world, too, and has become a symbol of the hopes and fears that people have about where biological knowledge might lead. When a movie about a genetically engineered future was dubbed "GATTACA" by its creator, he did not need to spell out the fact that the four letters used in the title are the abbreviations for the nucleotide bases--in other words, the letters of the genetic code.

In scientific terms, the model of the double helix, combined with the notion that DNA is a code, has transformed biology. But it has also given people a powerful visual and verbal means to communicate their concerns about the fruits of this new science--gene prospecting, DNA patenting, genetic testing, designer babies, cloning--and their social consequences."

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Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.


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