Leonard Lerman (born in 1925) was an American scientist most noted for his work on DNA. MIT News
reports that the biologist died at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at age 87 from complications of a chronic neurological disease.
Lerman worked with Sydney Brenner and Francis Crick. During his time working within DNA, Lerman identified chemicals that would insert themselves between the two strands of the DNA double helix in a process known as intercalation, causing the molecule to unwind and sometimes inducing mutations. The discovery, made at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, paved the way for understanding how a gene can be read to generate a protein.
Later Lerman went onto examine the structure of DNA, according to GenomeWeb
, and the way that proteins are created. This research was undertaken by inducing mutations into different strands of DNA. Lerman was able to develop techniques that could separate out DNA fragments, which has been key to the understanding of different genetic diseases.
Speaking to the New York Times
, Barbara J. Meyer, a professor of genetics at the University of California, Berkeley, said of Lerman: “His research shaped the way we manipulate and analyze DNA. His approaches have facilitated the diagnosis of mutations associated with human genetic diseases.”