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'Why am I called Renato?'

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The future
Renato Dulbecco Scientist
Views Duration
61. The future 116 03:22
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The other question was about the future- the future- I generally don't like answering this question, because it is something- it is not foreseeable. In fact, when we make a discovery, what is a discovery? It is something that we didn't understand before, that wasn't understood before, therefore the unknown has been discovered. But if it is unknown, you cannot foresee it and you cannot foresee in which direction things will go, therefore it is difficult to talk about it. For example, an interesting example in this field, in this direction is as follows, that in March, I'd say, an article appeared in "Nature" where scientists from Indiana, in the United States, were studying a small plant that is used a lot for experimental studies in plants and followed certain genetic characteristics of this plant and usually, genetic characteristics in general follow Mendel's laws, which transmit from parents to children in a very precise way, etc. But they found themselves presented with a situation where Mendel's laws were not followed, thus, what happened was that starting with two parents that had a certain alteration of this particular gene, tradition would expect all children to have it, but then, at a certain point, they realised that the plants derived from this no longer had it and this was checked and effectively the alterations of the sequence of genes, that were characteristic of this, had disappeared. And as they were not simply a base, but were a little more- they are due to an inverse valuation, as sometimes happens. Now, no-one knows how this happened but their idea is that there is a system whereby part of the gene information is set aside as reserve and then, when a mutation takes place, if this mutation damages the organism, there is the possibility of the organism repairing the mutation using this information, however, no-one knows what this information is. They have tried to determine- so, you see it is a totally unthinkable thing based on the knowledge we have and now the question is to go and see what happens, but just to have found it is something that no-one would have ever been able to conceive. Therefore, I'm sorry but I cannot make predictions about the future of science, because forecasts for the future of science are a mystery. They must be revealed one at a time and we don't know what they are. This is very honest.
L'altra domanda era il futuro- Questo, il futuro- io generalmente non voglio rispondere a questa domanda, perché è una cosa molto- non è prevedibile. Insomma, quando noi facciamo una scoperta- che cos'è la scoperta? È una cosa che non si capiva prima, che non si conosceva prima, perciò è scoprire l'incognito. Ma se è incognito, non puoi prevederlo e non puoi prevedere in che direzione le cose andranno, perciò è difficile dirlo. Per esempio, un esempio interessante in questo campo, in questa direzione è il seguente, che in marzo, direi, è comparso un articolo su "Nature" dove degli scienziati dell'Indiana, negli Stati Uniti, avevano- studiavano una piantina piccola che è molto usata per studi sperimentali nelle piante e seguivano certe caratteristiche genetiche di questa pianta e, normalmente, le caratteristiche genetiche, insomma, in generale, seguono le leggi di Mendel, che si trasmettono dai genitori ai figli in modo molto preciso, ecc. Ma loro si sono trovati di fronte a una situazione dove non seguivano le leggi di Mendel, anzi, quello che succedeva era questo che, partendo da due genitori che avevano una certa alterazione di questo particolare gene, naturalmente si aspettava che tutti i figli l'avessero, ma poi, a un certo punto, si sono accorti che le piante derivate da questo non l'avevano più e sono andati a verificare ed effettivamente le alterazioni della sequenza dei geni, che erano caratteristiche di questa, erano scomparse. E siccome non erano semplicemente una base, ma erano un po' di più non potevano essere dovuti semplicemente a una valutazione inversa, come qualche volta capita. Ora, come questo sia successo nessuno lo sa, perciò sembra, insomma la loro idea è che ci sia un sistema per cui una parte dell'informazione del gene viene messo da parte come riserva e poi, quando capita che c'è una mutazione, se questa mutazione danneggia l'organismo, che ci sia la possibilità dell'organismo di riparare la mutazione usando questa informazione, però nessuno sa cosa sia questa informazione. Hanno cercato di determinare- perciò, vedi è una cosa totalmente impensabile sulla base delle conoscenze e adesso la questione è andare a vedere cosa succede, ma il fatto di averlo trovato è una cosa che nessuno mai ci avrebbe potuto pensare. Perciò, mi rincresce, ma non posso fare previsioni sopra il futuro della scienza, perché le previsioni del futuro della scienza sono un mistero. Devono essere rivelate una per una e noi non sappiamo quali siano. Questo è molto onesto.

The Italian biologist Renato Dulbecco (1914-2012) had early success isolating a mutant of the polio virus which was used to create a life-saving vaccine. Later in his career, he initiated the Human Genome Project and was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for furthering our understanding of cancer caused by viruses.

Listeners: Paola De Paoli Marchetti

Paola De Paoli Marchetti is a science journalist who graduated with an honours degree in foreign languages and literature from the University Ca’Foscari, Venice. She has been a science journalist since the 1960s and has been on the staff of the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore since 1970. She was elected president of UGIS (Italian Association of Science Journalists) in 1984. She has been a Member of the Board of EUSJA (European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations, Strasbourg), and was its president in 1987-1988 and 1998-2000. In May 2000 she was unanimously elected president emeritus. She was a member of the National Council of Italian Journalists (1992-1998). From 2002 to 2004 she was member of the working group for scientific communication of the National Committee for Biotechnology. She has also been a consultant at the Italian Ministry of Research and Technology and editor-in-chief of the publication MRST, policy of science and technology. She has co-authored many publications in the field of scientific information, including Le biotecnologie in Italia, Le piste della ricerca and Luna vent’anni dopo.

Duration: 3 minutes, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008