Saved by science!

Over the past year, as the world has battled with CoronaVirus, our understanding of DNA has been pivotal in the rapid creation of vaccines. April marks the month when the DNA structure was finally mastered by Watson and Crick in Cambridge. So we wanted to re-tell this amazing story and celebrate this life saving discovery in style.

Where did this all start?

DeoxyriboNucleic Acid (DNA) was first discovered by Friedrich Miescher in 1869, and it remained aloof for many decades as people believed it was the proteins, rather than DNA, that were thought to hold the ‘genetic blueprint to life’.


Avery, Macleod and McCarty


This all changed in 1944 as a result of experiments by Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty. Together they demonstrated that purified DNA could change one strain of bacteria into another. This was the first time that DNA had clearly shown it was capable of transforming the properties of cells.

Nearly a decade later, in 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick put forward their double-helix model of DNA, based on crystallized X-ray structures that were being studied by Rosalind Franklin.


Rosalin Franklin


Based on the famous “Photo 51” an X-ray diffraction image taken by Raymond Gosling, a graduate student working under the supervision of Franklin. This image was given to Watson and Crick and proved critical to their understanding of the DNA structure.


Photo 51


The structure

DNA is composed of two strands of nucleotides coiled around each other, linked together by hydrogen bonds and running in opposite directions. Each strand is composed of four complementary nucleotides – adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T) – with an A on one strand always paired with T on the other, and C always paired with G. Watson and Crick proposed that this structure allowed each strand to be used to reconstruct the other, an idea that is central to the ‘passing on’ of hereditary information between generations.


DNA structure


Understanding the information

With the structure beginning to be understood, the next step was to investigate what information was being carried from cell to cell – through sequencing. Enter Frederick Sanger, a pioneer of sequencing methodology and by 1955 he had completed the sequence of all the amino acids within insulin. This provided the first conclusive evidence that proteins were chemical entities with a specific molecular pattern rather than a random mixture of material suspended in fluid.


Frederik Sanger


Sanger’s success spurred on x-ray crystallographers, including Watson and Crick, who were then trying to understand how DNA directed the formation of proteins within a cell. After attending a series of lectures by Sanger in 1954, Crick began developing a theory which argued that the arrangement of DNA determined the sequence of amino acids in proteins, which in turn helped determine the function of a protein.

DNA discovery

Break through

The big break through in understanding the DNA sequences involved using a strategy established by Ray Wu at Cornell University in 1970. Frederick Sanger adopted this strategy to develop more rapid DNA sequencing methods at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre in Cambridge, going on to publish a method for “DNA sequencing with chain-terminating inhibitors” in 1977.


Ray Wu

The full picture

The first full DNA genome was sequenced in 1977. The Medical Research Council (MRC) scientists deciphered the complete DNA sequence of the Epstein-Barr virus in 1984, finding it contained 172,282 nucleotides. Completion of the sequence marked a significant turning point in DNA sequencing because this was achieved with no prior genetic profile knowledge of the virus.

DNA love

The 2020 pandemic

Today our understanding of DNA and the ability to sequence large data sets quickly has delivered a way to combat Coronavirus, creating vaccines in an incredibly quick time. We already have 3 vaccines that have been proven to reduce infection and they have saved 100,000’s of lives within the first 12 months of the pandemic occurring. This simply wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t understand the structure and workings of DNA.

DNA shirt sleeve

Celebrating in style

We are proud to have designed a shirt that celebrates this incredible code and the achievements of those involved. The double helix is a thing of infinite beauty and our design graphically captures this in descending streams that are randomly interrupted with Binary code. April 25th marks the first publication of the Watson and Crick model. As we ease out of lockdown during April, this is a shirt to celebrate our code, your code and a code that defines us all and proves that we are infinity adaptable.


Watson and Crick, Cambridge

Adapting to circumstances

Our DNA shirts are available with CashCuff - contactless payments directly from the shirt. No phone, no wallet and no touching pay points. This highly secure, user focused, wearable tech is part of our vision for the future of ‘smart clothing’.