Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Recombinant DNA and HGT's contribution to the penicillin saga

Where does one begin?

The beta-lactam molecular 'core' was originally created by bacteria and was only later was moved by HGT/ recombinant DNA into some fungi .

Those fungi then created the penicillin-variants of that very special fused beta-lactam ring .

But while this HGT operation was obviously fundamental to there being a penicillin saga to begin with, it had little direct impact on how the 1929-1944 penicillin saga actually unfolded.

But the four years of hard work and disappointments that Martin Henry Dawson endured between the Fall of 1926 and the Fall of 1930  working on HGT and recombinant DNA exchanges did make him the best qualified researcher in the world to put up with the temperamental penicillium between the Fall of 1940 and the Fall of 1944.

 His pioneering work with R to S type  (and S to S type) HGT exchanges between Strep pneumococcus bacteria made him eminently qualified to stand up to all the difficulties in growing penicillium to produce penicillin.

Dawson was the first in the world, together with Richard Sia, to successfully induce R to S pneumococcus HGT DNA exchanges in a test tube after most other researchers threw up their hands in despair and moved onto other research.

But he was no quitter and he pulled it off after years of failure.

Dawson then went on, with Agnes Warbasse, to do the same with S to S HGT DNA exchanges and this remains extremely difficult to do naturally, as Dawson did it.

He then went on to successfully grow colonies of M and L types of bacteria, all part of his effort over the roughly 15 years between 1926 and 1941 to establish that R,M,L were fully co-equal equivalents or alternatives to S types of bacteria - not defective or deficient versions of it.

This postmodernist notion naturally was seen as bizarre or worse in the strongly modernist atmosphere of medical research between the wars.

I see it as the bacterial equivalent of Dawson treating 4F civilians as the exact moral equivalent of 1A soldiers, not as defective 'useless mouth' variants,  despite the reign of Total War Utilitarianism ruling western medicine between 1940 and 1945.

Dawson's pioneering HGT DNA/ Q-sensing work taught him ethics and it taught him technical skills - both which he called upon to get penicillin successfully launched......

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