Robert Holley (1984) - Control of Growth of Mammalian Cells

Robert Holley (1984)

Control of Growth of Mammalian Cells

Robert Holley (1984)

Control of Growth of Mammalian Cells

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The Nobel Laureates invited to the Lindau meetings typically belong to one of two categories. Those in the first category fall in love with the idea of mixing with students, young scientists and other Nobel Laureates. They usually return over and over again. Those in the second category feel a bit uncomfortable and usually only participate once or twice. For some reason not known to me, Robert Holley waited a long time before coming to Lindau for the first time in 1984. But then he seemed to have caught on and came back every time he was invited until he passed away. Of Holley’s two co-Nobel Laureates from 1968, Har Gobind Khorana was present in 1984, while Marshall Nirenberg only accepted the invitation to participate in the 2000’s. Holley seems to be fully aware of the young scientists and students present and gives a very pedagogical presentation, speaking slowly and clearly. That the biochemist discoverer of transfer-RNA, which translates the genetic code into the protein alphabet, should speak on cell growth may not have been a surprise. But that the main topic should be how the growth factors that bind to the receptors on the cell surface can send messengers into the cell so that it starts growing, may not have been so evident. The main message of the lecture was that, at the time, the outlines of how mammalian cells grow, was pretty clear, but many details would need further research. For the students and young scientists in the audience, such a message must have been among the most cherished ones, since many of them certainly were thinking of a career in biochemistry and some even on going into research, maybe in the footsteps of Robert Holley. Hypothetically, and judging by age only, one of the 2003 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, Roderick MacKinnon, could very well have been in the audience and could have become inspired to solve the problem of the ion channels in the cell surface!

Anders Bárány

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