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David Blow's work on the structure of a pancreatic enzyme


Evolution is a quick process whenever the conditions are good
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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Let's go back again to experiments. I mentioned the experiment we did with our evolution machine, and there we found out a molecule which... well, which appeared to be – at least one strand of it – appeared to be completely inert against decomposition by a nuclease... by a decomposing enzyme. And the other molecule gaining efficiency for replication so that it is always covered by the replicating enzyme and thereby the system could escape the evolutionary pressure of degradation. Well, I didn't say at the time how the molecule looked like, but if you look at it then the original molecule might have consisted of about 150 nucleotides and the final molecule of only 90 or so... so there were big changes in the molecular structure, and just the right changes to produce it. So it's an incredible efficiency. I said a sequence of 100 molecules has 1060 – one with 60 zeros – possible alternatives, and I picked out the right ones, within 70 minutes. So evolution is a quick process whenever the conditions are good.

Nobel Prize winning German biophysical chemist, Manfred Eigen (1927-2019), was best known for his work on fast chemical reactions and his development of ways to accurately measure these reactions down to the nearest billionth of a second. He published over 100 papers with topics ranging from hydrogen bridges of nucleic acids to the storage of information in the central nervous system.

Listeners: Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitch

Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch is the eldest daughter of the Austrian physicist Klaus Osatitsch, an internationally renowned expert in gas dynamics, and his wife Hedwig Oswatitsch-Klabinus. She was born in the German university town of Göttingen where her father worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Aerodynamics under Ludwig Prandtl. After World War II she was educated in Stockholm, Sweden, where her father was then a research scientist and lecturer at the Royal Institute of Technology.

In 1961 Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch enrolled in Chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna where she received her PhD in 1969 with a dissertation on "Fast complex reactions of alkali ions with biological membrane carriers". The experimental work for her thesis was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen under Manfred Eigen.

From 1971 to the present Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch has been working as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen in the Department of Chemical Kinetics which is headed by Manfred Eigen. Her interest was first focused on an application of relaxation techniques to the study of fast biological reactions. Thereafter, she engaged in theoretical studies on molecular evolution and developed game models for representing the underlying chemical proceses. Together with Manfred Eigen she wrote the widely noted book, "Laws of the Game" (Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1981 and Princeton University Press, 1993). Her more recent studies were concerned with comparative sequence analysis of nucleic acids in order to find out the age of the genetic code and the time course of the early evolution of life. For the last decade she has been successfully establishing industrial applications in the field of evolutionary biotechnology.

Tags: evolution machine, nuclease, decomposing enzyme, replicating enzyme, degradation, nucleotides

Duration: 1 minute, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008