|Year : 2019 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 82-83
Gene machine: The race to decipher the secrets of the ribosome
Department of Radiation Oncology, Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Web Publication||22-May-2019|
Dr. Nagraj Huilgol
Department of Radiation Oncology, Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Huilgol N. Gene machine: The race to decipher the secrets of the ribosome. J Radiat Cancer Res 2019;10:82-3
Author: Venki Ramakrishnan
Publisher: Harper Collins – Publishers in India First published in Australia and Great Britain
Year of Publication: 2018
Number of Pages: 272
Price: 436 Rupees
Science is a high-risk and low-yield profession. The road to discovery is littered with difficulties and unknown turns and twists. Scientists are either eulogized a hoisted on a pedestal or ignored as cranks in the corner. Gene machine is a personal member of Prof. Venki Ramakrishnan. It is the story of his quest to analyze and understand the ribosome. The journey spans over a decade of research since the time he was a postdoctoral student at Yale University with Prof. Peter Moure. He was the staff scientist in Brookhaven National Laboratory between 1983. He then moved to the University of Utah as professor of biochemistry. Eventually, he joined Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, where he is currently working.
Ribosome though a ubiquitous was universally ignored. Ribosome lies at the very crossroad of life. Yet way back in the nineties everyone ignored ribosomes. Venket Subramaniam who shifted his interest from physics to biology got propelled into ribosome research after reading an article in Scientific American. The article dealt with neutron scattering to detect proteins located on ribosomes. Applications of neutron scattering in biology appealed to the sensibility of V.S who had just moved over to biology from physics; neutron scattering was a technique familiar to physicists but not biologists. This led to publications of 5.5 angstrom resolution picture of 30S subunit; this was followed by discovering the complete molecular structure of 30S subunit of the ribosome and its complexes with several antibiotics. This was followed by studies in high fidelity protein synthesis. Eventually, in 2007, his laboratory determined the atomic structure of the ribosome in complex with its RNA and MRNA ligands. Standard acronym is the technique later adapted for studying various crystalline structures. He was conferred Nobel Prize for his work in ribosome along with Thomas Stetz and Ada Yonath. He was conferred knighthood by the queen and Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India.
V. Ramakrishnan has humanized the pursuit of discovery of research. The title could have been, “Race to discovery of ribosome.” The book narrates how contemporary discoveries are about multidisciplinary cooperation and competition. The emergence of technologies in various fields influences the course of discoveries. X-ray diffraction studies, for example, could have not been possible without Roentgen discovering X-rays. The narration is peppered with personal anecdotes of meetings, dalliance of colleagues, and politics of competition. All this potpourri of events laced with multitude of emotions of jealousy, despair, and ecstasy makes it an interesting book to read. “So I don't subscribe to the heroic narrative of science, Rather, some of us are fortunate are enough to be the agents of important discoveries that would have been made anyway, sometimes not even that much later. But, this cold analytical view does not sit well with our emotional selves. We humans tend to personify everything we touch.” This quote from the book pretty much reflects the tenor of the book. This book is highly recommended to doctoral students and those interested in science. I have no doubt it will inspire quite a few budding scientists.