From Phages to Faces (Base Pairs Episode 1)

Base Pairs
A lot has changed since DNA research first began, but the field has been filled with remarkable stories from the start. The first episode of Base Pairs tells two stories—one from each end of the timeline.

Today, it’s easy to take the power of genetic information for granted. We now commonly encounter DNA testing in our daily lives, whether we’re watching a crime show or visiting a doctor. But it wasn’t all that long ago that scientists were still trying to figure out whether DNA was actually the key to heredity or just another “stupid molecule.”

In this pilot episode of Base Pairs, hosts Andrea Alfano and Brian Stallard go back to the beginning of DNA research to tell the story of how two scientists used a simple kitchen blender to reveal that DNA is the blueprint for life. Later in the episode, we see just how far the field has come, with a story about how a scientist recently discovered a new disease by tracing genetic clues that he first noticed in a pair of severely disabled brothers from Utah.

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Extras for Episode 1:

In this video from the DNA Learning Center, Al Hershey recounts how the idea for the Hershey-Chase experiment came about. (Yes, that is the famous blender that he is holding!)


Al Hershey and Martha Chase


Jalene, Daxton (top), and Ryker (bottom right)—the family in which CSHL Assistant Professor Gholson Lyon (bottom left) first came across the disease the disease he would later identify as TAF1 Syndrome.

BP_EP1_Lee family and Gholson Lyon

You can read the full paper by Gholson and colleagues in the American Journal of Human Genetics here. The image above is a still from one of the videos found in the supplemental materials at the end of the paper.

Music in this episode by Broke for Free and Chris Zabriskie.

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