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Last Updated: Friday, 5 January 2007, 10:10 GMT
DNA
The British Medical Journal is launching a competition to decided the greatest medical breakthrough.

Present-day medical experts are championing discoveries from the last 166 years.

DNA is championed by John Burn, medical director at the Institute of Human Genetics, Centre for Life, Newcastle upon Tyne

DNA is probably one of the most easily recognised scientific acronyms, and the research avenues it opened up are not yet exhausted.

DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid was first investigated in 1953

Jim Watson and Francis Crick first modelled DNA - deoxyribonucleic acid - at the University of Cambridge in 1953.

DNA is the genetic material of most living organisms. It is copied and passed from parents to children and determines factors such as hair and eye colour.

They discovered the double-stranded helical structure of genetic information and the mechanism of inheritance which allowed further work to be carried out.

The human genome project is perhaps the most significant of these, allowing scientists to link genetic variants to be linked to disorders.

Now, gene mutations linked to common disorders such as eczema are being discovered, and genetic sequencing, allowing widespread genetic testing, is developing and is becoming more widely available.

Dr Burn says DNA has a compelling argument for being the winner of the BMJ vote.

But he admits: "The effects of the discovery of DNA have yet to reach their peak. Once they have, the case for DNA will be unanswerably strong. The best is yet to come."




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