Delbrück, Max Ludwig Henning


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Delbrück, Max Ludwig Henning

(dĕl`brük), 1906–1981, American biophysicist, b. Berlin, Germany. Ph.D, Univ. of Göttingen, 1930. He spent most of his career as a professor at the California Institute of Technology. Delbrück was co-recipient of the 1969 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with Alfred D. HersheyHershey, Alfred Day,
1908–1997, American microbiologist, b. Owosso, Mich., Ph.D., Michigan State College (now Michigan State Univ.), 1934. Hershey was a professor at the Washington Univ.
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 and Salvador E. LuriaLuria, Salvador Edward,
1912–1991, American physician, b. Turin, Italy, M.D., Univ. of Turin, 1935. He conducted research and taught at the Institute of Radium in Paris (1938–40), Columbia (1940–42), Indiana Univ. (1943–50), and the Univ.
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. The three were cited for their discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and genetic structure of viruses. Working independently but collaboratively beginning in 1940, the three researchers used bacteriophagesbacteriophage
, virus that infects bacteria and sometimes destroys them by lysis, or dissolution of the cell. Bacteriophages, or phages, have a head composed of protein, an inner core of nucleic acid—either deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or ribonucleic acid (RNA)—and a
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, viruses that invade bacteria and cause their disintegration, to study such fundamental life processes as self-replication and mutation. Delbrück is credited with discovering an unanticipated genetic interaction between viruses infecting the same cell, subsequently identified as genetic recombinationrecombination,
process of "shuffling" of genes by which new combinations can be generated. In recombination through sexual reproduction, the offspring's complete set of genes differs from that of either parent, being rather a combination of genes from both parents.
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. The work done by Delbrück, Hershey and Luria played a significant role in the subsequent development of the disciplines of molecular biology and virology.