Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nobel Laureate: Arne Tiselius


The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1948.

Arne Wilhelm Kaurin Tiselius (1902-1971): "for his research on electrophoresis and adsorption analysis, especially for his discoveries concerning the complex nature of the serum proteins"

Arne Tiselius won the Nobel Prize in 1948 for discovering how to separate protein by electrophoresis. Beginning in the early 1930's, Tiselius developed techniques for separating proteins on the basis of their migration in an electric field. Positively charged proteins move toward the cathode and negatively charged proteins move toward the anode. The trick was to detect the proteins as they move in a solution (the "moving boundary"). By the late 1930's, Tiselius had constructed a complex apparatus that detected bands of protein by recording changes in the refractive index of the solution as the boundary moved past a lens ("schlieren" method).

He used this technique to analyze the protein in blood plasma showing for the first time that the mixture was very complex and heterogeneous. The figure below is from his presentation speech. It shows that the most important proteins in human serum are albumin, various globulins (antibodies) and fibrinogen. Fibrinogen is the protein required for blood clotting.

These days electrophoresis is a common technique in biochemistry labs, especially using a gel matrix. Undergraduates easily separate complex mixtures at a resolution that Tiselius never dreamed of when he began his work 80 years ago.

The power of the technique, even with the clumsy apparatus of the 1940's was widely appreciated and that's why the Nobel Prize presenter said,
The value of the new methods which have been briefly described here, is especially brought to light by their use, which is nowadays general, in international research in biochemistry and in medicine. Tiselius' apparatuses for electrophoresis and analysis by adsorption nowadays form part of the normal equipment of a great number of laboratories and medical institutes not only in Sweden but also abroad. One notices continually in chemical periodicals new experiments made by using Tiselius' methods.
Tiselius really is the father of electrophoresis and his contribution to modern biochemistry needs to be more widely appreciated.

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