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Life AtomicA History of Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine$
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Angela N. H. Creager

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226017808

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226017945.001.0001

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(p.220) Chapter Seven Pathways
Life Atomic

Angela N. H. Creager

University of Chicago Press

This chapter follows radioisotopes into the laboratories of biochemists and molecular biologists, where they illuminated metabolic pathways and genetic transmission. Early isotope labelling experiments involved stable isotopes, but with the availability of radioisotopes from the AEC, biochemists began relying more on radioactive labels. The chapter features two case studies: Melvin Calvin and Andrew Benson’s elucidation of the steps of photosynthesis using carbon-14, and the role of sulfur-35 and phosphorus-32 in the 1953 Hershey-Chase experiment and other gene transfer experiments (including the so-called “suicide experiments” with phage). Both of these experiments helped establish radiolabeling as a central technique among biochemists and molecular biologists.

Keywords:   Biochemistry, Molecular biology, Stable isotopes, Photosynthesis, Bacteriophage, Melvin Calvin, Andrew Benson, Alfred D. Hershey, Martha Chase, Gunther Stent

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