When bacteria teach the meaning of life
ATA Team, April 6, 2014
Translated by: Stefania

The journey through genetic science goes on as Clinton B. Rosenburg keeps leading us along the first steps and discoveries of DNA. Though he left the Foundation and he lost influence inside Abstergo (yet not as much as we found in the secret letters of the preview picture for this set of memories), he still shows to be an expert in the field. As we wrote in our last article, the double-helix DNA structure was theorized by Watson and Crick and, at that time, they only had the structure without knowing its building process in living cells.

The memory released on April 6th shows us, as always without saying it out loud, the first successes in defining the DNA mechanism. Let’s try to explain them in simple words.

Clinton talks about the discovery of “enzymes found in bacteria isolated from Yellowstone’s hot springs”. But what are they and why are they so important?

Yellowstone's Hot Springs

In 1966, the American scientist Thomas D. Brock, during one of his studies on Yellowstone’s hot springs, found a new type of thermophiles bacteria (meaning microorganisms which live at very high temperatures). The importance of this discovery is not related to this particular finding but to the understanding of how they could resist to such inhabitable conditions. Their ability lies in the fact that they have enzymes that work at very high temperature (every enzyme has its own optimal temperature to catalyze reactions) and, among these enzymes, scientists isolated a new DNA polymerase. We have to stress, however, that this Polymerase was not the first one to be found (the first one was discovered in 1955 by Arthur Kornberg and it was isolated in Escherichia Coli, a common bacterium).

DNA helix separated in its strands
Clinton talks about this new version of the enzyme at the end of the letter and, for those who don’t know, DNA polymerase is THE enzyme which leads DNA replication. In simple words, when the DNA duplicates, the double helix opens and the strands get separated. We have then Strand A and Strand B, single strands without the complementary ones which are necessary to create the double helix. DNA Polymerase creates the missing strands in order to obtain, at the end of the process, two helixes, one independent from the other.

Thermus Aquaticus, the bacterium
who started the science progress
You can now see why discovering DNA polymerase was such an important step. It really unveils the mystery of life because it explains how a living creature starts being an individual. The importance of the Yellowstone polymerase (called Taq Polimerase) lies in the fact that, as we said, it comes from living microorganisms which resist to high temperatures and so their enzymes are able to work properly even in those environmental conditions. This allowed and allows scientists to use it in reactions in which other enzymes would get denaturated (meaning disabled) like, for example, the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction - a biotechnological method used to amplify a small DNA fragment).

Who were the scientist/s who discovered this polymerase, then? If Dr. Brock is the “father” of the bacteria inside which the enzyme was expressed, the “father” of the enzyme discovery remains uncertain because a lot of scientists claimed that title. What we learn from this memory, however, is that Rosenburg is talking about the “people at the University of Cincinnati” and this gives us a hint of the interpretation used inside the AC plot: in the University of Cincinnati, in fact, at that time, Professor John Trela was working on isolating thermophiles enzymes from one of the Yellowstone bacteria. He actually succeeded in isolating the Polymerase and it is indeed the enzyme that nowadays is used in the PCR method all around the world.


The memory released on April 7th does not add a lot of details but there are some new hints that we would like to explain.

The first thing that catches our eyes is the new Abstergo logo. Already in 1976 it is the one we are used to know from the games , very different from the one on yesterday’s letter (which had in our opinion a microscope shape).

Going on reading the letter, we can learn that Dr. Clinton B. Rosenburg moved again from Boise to Rochester. From our research, we didn’t find anything particular happened there in those years: there is just one thing that could be related to it and it is the fact that in 1976 (and in the previous years) a scientists team in Rochester University was working on the organization of DNA in chromatin. It is possible then, that the memories locations for this set are not random. Maybe Clinton was visiting the most important laboratories in which DNA was studied.

Lastly, Clinton talks about the mapping of the human genome. We know that today the human genome has been completely mapped but how did the process begin?
The new discoveries about the DNA of those years and the huge possibilities that they opened, pushed the scientists to consider not only bacteria and their genetic material. The new resources allowed them to investigate something that up until then represented an unresolved riddle: the human genome.
Officially, the project began in 1990 in the USA, when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Energy started the “Human Genome Project”. At that time David Galas was Director in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and James Watson (the same Watson who determined in 1953 the DNA structure) headed the NIH Genome Program. In 1993, Watson got fired because of an issue on patenting genes and Francis Collins replaced him.
The project, in the following years, reached unbelievable goals and, the most important one, occurred on April 14, 2003 when they succeeded in fulfilling the final aim of the project: they completed the mapping of the human genes.
This success brings the chance to improve many fields and not only the medical ones: it can be used for biofuels and energy applications, anthropology, evolution, agriculture, and so on. What could be interesting for the AC plot is that knowing the human genome could allow scientists to create DNA based products precisely assembled for a particular DNA sequence of genes. An example that we know pretty well is the Animus itself. To “explore” the genes that hide the ancestors’ memories and to find more easily then something so specific, Abstergo probably had to own the human genome map.
Besides, knowing the DNA sequences that codify the characteristics of all human beings may have represented for Abstergo a new and additional way to control human kind (along with capitalism, entertainment and pharmaceuticals).
Finally, the scientific methods to map DNA sequences may have given Abstergo’s scientists the chance to work on the First Civilization genome in order to be able to give the human kind the characteristics that it should have had since the moment of its creation (in line with this quote from ACR Multiplayer: “Furthermore, preliminary analysis suggests we will have the means to locate individuals with potential, but far less certain is the EYE's ability to harvest raw data or awaken in humans what should have been ours from the moment of our creation.”)

At the end of the letter, Clinton talks about his successful trial in finding an evidence of the triple helix DNA. The interesting fact is that in 1976, in the Department of Biological Sciences of the Purdue University, a team of scientists actually succeeded in creating a model of stable triple-stranded polynucleotides.

That's all, we hope that this short explanation could be useful to understand these memories!
Stay tuned!

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