The MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) turns 100 this year and its rich history is fertile ground for looking back on past discoveries. This 1960s molecular model represents an important point in the evolution of thinking about the structure of the ribosome. Katherine Nightingale spoke to Dr Bob Cox about constructing the model ― and getting a few giants of biomedical research to sign it too.
Bob Cox’s ribosome model, with Crick’s signature second from right on the top row
Look closely at one of these polystyrene balls and you’ll find the autograph of one of science’s most celebrated sons, Francis Crick. As well as being part of the duo that discovered the structure of DNA, Crick also proposed the “central dogma” of molecular biology: that DNA makes RNA makes protein. Fitting then, that his signature is here on an early model of the ribosome, the molecular machine that makes proteins.
Ribosomes are cellular factories made of RNA and protein which ‘translate’ the genetic code into the corresponding amino acid code, specific to each protein. They are large and complex molecules, made up of around 50 proteins divided into two subunits. They were discovered in 1955, though they didn’t get their name until 1958.
This model, produced by NIMR researcher Bob Cox in 1969, was the first attempt to model ribosome structure in detail. Until then, only blurry microscope pictures had been available. Read more
A snapshot from one of the books (Image copyright: The Crick Institute)
Building work on the Francis Crick Institute in central London is continuing apace, but how much do local residents know about the institute and the huge building which will be their new neighbour? Here Lex Mannion, the Crick Institute’s Public Engagement Manager, explains a recent project getting families involved in telling the story of the institute.
We recently celebrated the success of our most recent community outreach project, Science and Story. Between March and June this year, we worked with more than 60 children and their families from Somers Town in Camden, alongside a children’s writer and three illustrators, to create a series of comic books to tell stories about the new institute.
With the construction of the Crick having progressed so much recently, we wanted to ensure that local children fully understood what this big new building in their neighbourhood is actually going to do. We realised that all of our publications were aimed at an adult audience, and that we had no literature or information for younger people. That’s when we came up with the idea of creating comic books for local children and their families (and we’ve since found that they have a much wider appeal!). Read more