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June 2013

From the Genetic Code to Neuromics

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

JAMA Neurol. 2013;70(6):684-685. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.2854

In 1968, Marshall Nirenberg won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for deciphering the genetic code. At the time, I was a postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory, the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics at the National Heart and Lung Institute of the National Institutes of Health. We were working on the molecular differentiation of neuroblastoma cells and neuroblasts from dissociated mouse brain in cell culture. Enzyme activities for neurotransmitter synthesis and degradation were characterized with the degree of morphologic cellular differentiation. These experiments and others of a similar nature represented the beginning of the era of neurobiochemical genetics. Discussions in the laboratory at that time focused on the application of the genetic code and development of methods for deciphering mutations causal of neurological disease. Discussions with Nirenberg included ideas and concepts of potential brain codes for memory and learning. It was a scientifically intense, creative, and productive time for all of us in the laboratory, projecting how the nascent fields of neurogenetics and neurogenomics (neuromics) would unfold and eventually enter the clinic.

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