Recorded: 22 Aug 2008
So what we know now about biology is…I write a text book, cell biology text book every five years. And every time we write this textbook you realize that we’re further away from really understanding biology than we were the last edition. Because, not that we haven’t learned a lot, but that we’ve learned enough so we know that the system is much more complicated than we ever imagined, and sophisticated. You know when we started, I actually remember when they did the first crystal structure of tRNA and everybody was amazed it had a unique three dimensional structure. You know just over and over the, you know… more recently just in the last edition of our textbook which …a year and a half ago, we finally realized that you know, not only is there all the signaling that tells cells what to do and the cells have sort of a brain. I mean they have this network of signaling interactions which we don’t understand that make it able to make decisions just like our brain does. And we don’t know how that… if we knew how that…read that brain, we could do a lot with cancer that we can’t do now. But, but not only that, but that signaling system positions almost every protein in specific places in the cell. And so the cell’s very, very far from being a test tube for like I thought, we all thought of it when we were starting. Like a mixture of things in a concentrated random mixture in a test tube. It’s nothing like that. Everything is positioned, more or less. And not only are they positioned, but those positions change, signals change from being…put them together in different clusters so that they could function. So the chemistry is incredibly complicated and how we’re ever going to understand this is not clear. Because I mean you can know everything about the signaling pathways, and every, every one of the you know 100,000 rate constants for every reaction in there and still not understand it because it’s too complicated. You need new methods for understanding.
Bruce Alberts, currently Editor-in-chief of Science, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysic at the University of California and United States Science Envoy. He received A.B. (1960) in Biochemical Science from Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts and Ph.D. (1965) from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1966 he joined Department of Chemistry at the Princeton University and after 10 years he became professor and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysic at the UCSF.
Alberts work is best known for his work on the protein complexes that allow chromosomes to be replicated. He is one of the authors of The Molecular Biology of the Cell, a major textbook in the field. He served two-six years terms as a president of National Academy of Science (1993-2005). During his administration at NAS, he was involved in developing the landmark of National Science Education standards.
Among many honors and awards (16 honorary degrees), he is Co-chair of the InterAcademy Council and a trustee of Gordon and Betty Moore Fundation.
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