Dr. Khorana used chemical synthesis to combine the letters into specific defined patterns, like UCUCUCUCU, from which he deduced that UCU encoded for serine and CUC encoded for leucine. His work unambiguously confirmed that the genetic code consisted of 64 distinct three-letter words. He and Dr. Nirenberg discovered that some of the words told a cell where to begin reading the code, and where to stop.
In 1972, Dr. Khorana reported a second breakthrough: the construction of the first artificial gene, using off-the-shelf chemicals. Four years later, he announced that he had gotten an artificial gene to function in a bacterial cell. The ability to synthesize DNA was central to advances in genetic engineering and the development of the biotechnology industry. “He left an amazing trail of technical achievement,” said Dr. Thomas P. Sakmar, a professor at Rockefeller University and a former student.
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