How the techniques of molecular biology are developed from natural systems

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Ronai, Isobel
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A striking characteristic of the highly successful techniques in molecular biology is that they are derived from natural systems. RNA interference (RNAi), for example, utilises a mechanism that evolved in eukaryotes to destroy foreign nucleic acid. Other examples include restriction enzymes, the polymerase chain reaction, green fluorescent protein and CRISPR-Cas. I propose that biologists exploit natural molecular mechanisms for their effectors’ (protein or nucleic acid) activity and biological specificity (protein or nucleic acid can cause precise reactions). I also show that the developmental trajectory of novel techniques in molecular biology, such as RNAi, is four characteristic phases. The first phase is discovery of a biological phenomenon, typically as curiosity driven research. The second is identification of the mechanism’s trigger(s), the effector and biological specificity. The third is the application of the technique. The final phase is the maturation and refinement of the molecular biology technique. The development of new molecular biology techniques from nature is crucial for biological research. These techniques transform scientific knowledge and generate new knowledge.