Restriction enzymes are any enzymes that cut DNA at specific points. They are found in bacteria and archaea, a type of single celled microorganism, and protect them from viral infections. Over 3000 restriction enzymes have been discovered and more than 600 are available for commercial use. They are very important for science because they can be used for DNA manipulation and modification. It is for this reason that they are often described as “chemical knives.” If you have ever wondered who made this important discovery, keep reading to find out.
Who discovered restriction enzymes?
The discovery of restriction enzymes is credited to Swiss scientist Werner Arber in the 1960′s. He proposed the idea for how these enzymes work, which was verified by American microbiologist Hamilton Smith. In 1970 Smith published two papers detailing the discovery of the first restriction enzyme and explained how they worked. In 1971 another American microbiologist Dan Nathans was the first to apply the use of restriction enzymes to genetics. In 1978 the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Werner Arber, Hamilton Smith and Dan Nathans for their discovery and application of restriction enzymes.
Did you know?
The first restriction enzyme to be isolated is called HindII. This enzyme was discovered while working with the Haemophilus influenzae bacteria.
The discovery of restriction enzymes has led to many important medical breakthroughs such as, the mass production of insulin for diabetics.