George Whipple (1954) - The Dynamic Equilibrium of Body Proteins Hemoglobin, Plasma Proteins, Organ and Tissue Proteins

George Whipple (1954)

The Dynamic Equilibrium of Body Proteins Hemoglobin, Plasma Proteins, Organ and Tissue Proteins

George Whipple (1954)

The Dynamic Equilibrium of Body Proteins Hemoglobin, Plasma Proteins, Organ and Tissue Proteins

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When George Whipple received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine together with George Minot and William Murphy in 1934, it was the first time that this particular Nobel Prize was shared by three. In this trio of Nobel Laureates, Whipple represented Physiology and the other two Medicine. Whipple had studied how the production of the oxygen carrying molecule haemoglobin depends on the food given to dogs suffering of anaemia. The other two had tried out his findings on hospital patients. They found that they could cure the deadly disease pernicious anaemia by letting their patients eat large amounts of raw liver, thus saving thousands of lives even before 1934. The reason that raw liver is effective has much later been shown to depend on the liver containing vitamin B12. The synthesis of this vitamin can thus be said to have led to a much more agreeable cure for the disease! The medical doctor William Murphy gave a talk on the history of the treatment of pernicious anaemia at the very first Lindau Meeting, which was intended for other medical doctors. When George Whipple was invited in 1954, Count Lennart Bernadotte had begun the transformation of the meetings into meetings for young scientists and students. Whipple writes in his acceptance letter to Lindau: “I understand that this is to be presented to an audience consisting of many lay people so that the language will be directed to lay people rather than to the professional investigator. … I understand that lectures occupy about 3/4 of an hour.” As you can hear from the recorded lecture, Whipple really lives up to his acceptance letter. He speaks slowly and clearly and uses a language that can be readily understood. Even the time span of the lecture, which quite often is a problem even for a Nobel Laureate, gives him no problem, he needs only about 35 minutes. The investigation that he reports is a logical extension of the work performed 30 years earlier, but one important new technique has been added: Radioactive tracers had been introduced and with these one could follow the pathways of different proteins injected into the dogs. For the inventor of the radioactive tracer method, George de Hevesy, who received the 1943 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work and who was present at this Lindau meeting, this must have felt quite nice!

Anders Bárány

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