La route vers la double hélice, la structure de l'ADN

Cinquante ans plus tôt, le 25 avril 1953, James Watson et Francis Crick publiaient une courte lettre dans le magazine scientifique Nature . Cette lettre décrivait une structure hélicoïdale remarquable composée de deux chaînes pour l'ADN, le matériau génétique des organismes vivants. Leur modèle en double hélice permettait de comprendre comment les cellules vivantes pouvaient produire deux copies parfaites d'elles-mêmes et comment le matériau génétique stockait toutes les informations permettant de synthétiser les protéines nécessaires à la construction d'un organisme vivant.

La deuxième avancée majeure eut lieu quelques mois plus tard, lorsque Max Perutz découvrit une technique visant à déterminer les structures de grandes molécules comme la myoglobine et l'hémoglobine. Depuis lors, l'analyse structurale par radiographie des molécules protéiques nous a permis de comprendre la chimie des réactions biologiques.

Ces deux découvertes (la structure de l'ADN et la structure protéique) virent le jour dans le laboratoire Cavendish de l'université de Cambridge. Alors pourquoi ces deux pierres commémoratives de la révolution de la biologie et de la médecine qui ont dominé la science dans la seconde moitié du 20 e siècle n'ont-elles pas été découvertes dans un laboratoire de physique britannique ?

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