Saturday, October 4, 2008

Victory on Paper (March 1955) (Only A Trillion, 1957)

Victory on Paper was published in March, 1955. Asimov doesn't say where. (The version of Only A Trillion that I'm working with was "revised and updated" in 1976. Each essay has an endnote explaining, a bit, what's gone on since the essay was originally published.

First paragraph
The key to the answer to the problem of protein structure was found by a Russia. This was Michael Tswett.

Final Paragraph
It took Sanger and his men eight years to solve the "impossible" problem of finding one arrangement out of several googols of possible arrangements. We shouldn't object to giving biochemists a few more years to see what other possibilities they can knock off.

Asimov tells how Michael Tswett discovered the principles of chromatography, but becauses he was a Russian, writing in Russian, and Germans dominated th field of biochemistry, his paper never got read, and it wasn't until 1931 that anything started happening with it.

Chromatography is the process of using filter paper. Immerse it in a liquid, the liquid creeps up the paper, until it gets to a solution you've placed on the paper. Each different component of the liquidd separates substances stay with the solution you've placed on the paper, unlike substances continue their creeping. (Very rought description.)

But, using chromatography, scientists were able to discover how insulin was put together (as well as other proteins) in a quest to create artificial insulin as at th etime of this writing, iinsulin came only from the pancreas of cattle or pigs.

Synthetic insulin first appeared in 1982, and today, 2008, "Since January 2006, all insulins distributed in the U.S. and some other countries are synthetic "human" insulins or their analogs. A special FDA importation process is required to obtain bovine or porcine derived insulin for use in the U.S., although there may be some remaining stocks of porcine insulin made by Lilly in 2005 or earlier."

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