Posts tagged: Biochemistry

Processing of the Paul Zamecnik papers has begun

By , July 25, 2016

Paul Zamecnik (1912-2009) was the Collis P. Huntington Professor of Oncologic Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and headed laboratories at the Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (1947-1979, 1997-2009) and the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Foundation, Worcester, Massachusetts (1979-1997). He is known for his work across multiple fields of biochemistry and molecular biology, including the identification and characterization of the principal components of protein synthesis. He was among those who discovered soluble molecular RNA, later known as transfer RNA (tRNA,) and discovered antisense RNAs and their therapeutic potential; Zamecnik produced the first evidence for the presence and potential role of microRNAs. The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to report that the Paul Zamecnik papers, a product of his research and career as an author and professor at Harvard Medical School, are currently being processed.

Paul Charles Zamecnik was born 22 November 1912 in Cleveland, Ohio, and at sixteen, enrolled at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. Zamecnik completed bachelor’s degrees at Dartmouth in both chemistry and zoology (1933), and received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (1936). He interned at Harvard’s Colllis P. Huntington Laboratories for Cancer Research and in 1938, was an intern at University Hospitals, Cleveland, Ohio. Zamecnik was a fellow at the Carlsberg Laboratories, Copenhagen, Denmark, but returned to the work at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, New York, New York, after the 1940 Nazi invasion of Denmark. He held a teaching position at Harvard Medical School during the war, and was then given his own laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital focusing on the mechanisms of protein synthesis. In 1956, Zamecnik became the Collis P. Huntington Professor of Oncologic Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and continued his research at Massachusetts General Hospital until his retirement to Professor Emeritus in 1979. At that time, he moved his research laboratory to the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research, where he remained until 1997 when that foundation was absorbed by the University of Massachusetts. Zamecnik returned to Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cancer Center as a Senior Scientist, where he continued to work until weeks prior to his death in 2009. He was also a cofounder of Hybridon, Incorporated, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1990 to work on the development of antisense drugs; this company merged with Idera Pharmaceuticals in 2004.

Zamecnik is known for his work on protein synthesis, and the discovery of transfer RNA, as well as antisense RNAs and their therapeutic potential. During his early career, he was able to show the incorporation of C14 amino acid into the protein in rat liver slices, which led him to develop a cell-free system with Nancy L. Bucher (1913-) in order to dissect the intermediary events. In 1956, with this system in place, Zamecnik worked with Mahlon B. Hoagland (1921-2009) and Mary Louise Stephenson (1921-2009) to show that ATP was required for protein synthesis via the formation of amino acid adenylates. During this work, Zamecnik noted that ribosomes were the site of protein assembly, which led to the discovery of a small soluble molecular RNA, first called soluble RNA (sRNA) and later transfer RNA (tRNA). Zamecnik then created the cell-free system in E. coli, which led to the deciphering of the genetic code. In 1978, while working on the structure of the Rous sarcoma virus, he showed that it was possible to create a short chain of nucleotides, or a synthetic antisense chain, that would bind to the complementary nucleotide sequence of the messenger RNA (mRNA) strand. He was successful in using antisense oligos to block the replication, transcription, and translation of Rous sarcoma virus in chicken fibroblasts, from which a new chemotherapeutic concept was born. Later in his career, Zamecnik and his coworkers used antisense inhibition in in vitro systems to interfere with the growth of the influenza virus, HIV, f. malaria and M. tuberculosis. He was the first to publish evidence for the existence of microRNA, and showed that the insertion of oligonucleotides by transhybridization could correct the cystic fibrosis gene mutation and that antisense oligos could inhibit cell wall synthesis.

Throughout his career, Paul Zamecnik was an active professor and administrator at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. He received several awards for his research efforts, including honorary doctorates from Columbia University, New York, New York (1971) and Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire (1987), as well as the National Medal of Science (1991), and the Albert Lasker Award for Special Achievement in the Medical Sciences (1996).

The papers, created throughout Zamecnik’s research, professional, and publishing activities, include research data and notes, grant and patent materials, correspondence, and writings and drafts. They are expected to be opened to research by July 2017. For more information on the processing of these papers, contact Elizabeth Coup, Processing Assistant.

Processing of the Luigi Gorini Papers has begun as part of the Maximizing Microbiology Project

By , February 18, 2016

Luigi Gorini was a microbiologist known for his research in the physiology of proteolysis, bacterial and gene expression regulation, bacterial ribosomes, and the influence of ribosomal mutations, as well as for his anti-fascist political activism during World War II. The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to report that the Luigi Gorini papers (1947-1977), a product of Gorini’s research, professional and publishing activities, and career as a professor at Harvard Medical School, are currently being processed as part of the Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1936-2000 project.

Luigi Gorini was born on 13 November 1903 in Milan, Italy, and attended the University of Pavia, Italy, for his undergraduate and graduate education. He completed his thesis in organic chemistry, but focused in his graduate studies on biology. His studies were cut short in 1931 by the rise of the fascist state. Gorini fled to Milan, Italy, where he was a researcher at the Istituto Giuliana Ronzoni from 1942-1945. He became the head of the Department of Biochemistry at the Istituto Scientifico di Chimica e Biochimica Giuliana Ronzoni in 1946, a role he held until emigrating to Paris, France, in 1949. In the years directly following the fall of the Italian fascist government, Gorini and his wife Annamaria Torriani-Gorini, a fellow scientist he met at the Istituto Giuliana Ronzoni, managed a refugee camp for Jewish children orphaned during the Holocaust, preparing them and making arrangements for their emigration to Israel.

In Paris, he worked in the Laboratory of Biological Chemistry at the National Center for Scientific Research at the Sorbonne, Paris, from 1949-1951. In 1951, Gorini was named the Head of Research in this laboratory, and the Master of Research in 1954. He was a Visiting Researcher in the Department of Pharmacology of the College of Medicine at New York University, New York, from 1955-1957, where he came to work with Bernard D. Davis (1916-1994). Gorini was hired as a Lecturer in the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology at the Harvard Medical School in 1957, after Davis was hired as its chair. Gorini continued to teach and research at Harvard Medical School for the remainder of his career. He became the American Cancer Society Associate Professor in this Department in 1962, and acted as the American Cancer Society Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from this time until his retirement in 1974. He remained at Professor Emeritus until his death on 13 August 1976.

Gorini’s laboratory research early in his career related to aspects of bacterial proteolysis and the biochemistry of extracellular enzymes. His work on the physiology of proteolysis led to the discovery of an unusual growth factor, catechol, in 1954. Working with Werner Maas (1921-), Gorini recognized the way bacterial enzymes affect bacterial regulation, which in turn altered modes of thought about the regulation of gene expression and led to the development of the concept of the gene repressor. Once at Harvard Medical School, Gorini’s research focus was primarily on the arginine pathway and the influence of ribosomal mutations. With Eva Kataja, Gorini also studied bacterial ribosomes and the effect of streptomycin. He published more than 100 scientific articles, writing up until his death, and received multiple awards for his scientific research, including the Kronauer Prize from the Faculté des Sciences at the Sorbonne in 1949 and the Harvard University Ledlie Prize in 1965. Gorini also remained politically active throughout his life, writing and speaking out against fascism, violence, and racial and gender prejudice.

The papers, created throughout Gorini’s research, professional, teaching, and publishing activities, include raw research data, correspondence, writings and publications, and other materials relating to his professional activities. They are expected to be opened to research early in 2016.

The Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1936-2000 project is funded by a Hidden Collections grant from the Harvard University Libraries. The project will also open the collections of other scientists and professors whose work relates to the origins of molecular genetics, including the Arthur B. Pardee papers, 1949-2001, the Francesc Duran i Reynals papers, 1936-1959, and the the Bernard D. Davis papers, 1909-1995 (inclusive), 1939-1994 (bulk). For more information on the Maximizing Microbiology project, please contact Emily Novak Gustainis, Head, Collections Services or Elizabeth Coup, Processing Assistant.

Manfred L. Karnovsky Papers Open to Research

By , February 27, 2014
Manfred L. Karnovsky

Manfred L. Karnovsky, undated, Portrait Collection. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Manfred L. Karnovsky papers, 1925-1998.  Karnovsky (1918-1999) was Harold T. White Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology Emeritus at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.  Throughout his career, his research focused on multiple areas of biological chemistry, particularly the biochemistry of sleep, the biochemical basis of phagocytosis, and the biochemistry of complex lipids. His research showed how white blood cells use oxygen to strengthen their defenses against bacterial intruders. With Prof. John Pappenheimer, he advanced the biochemical study of sleep-inducing substances in the brain.

The bulk of the papers contain professional correspondence, research notes, manuscript drafts, and Harvard Medical School departmental and committee meeting minutes and reports.  Papers also contain Karnovsky’s Harvard Medical School teaching records, professional organization meeting minutes and reports, reprints of his scientific papers, and a collection of 35-millimeter teaching slides related to biochemistry.

Karnovsky served as Secretary and Communications Secretary for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Interviewer for the China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application (CUSBEA) Program, which sought to place Chinese biochemistry graduate students in United States universities.  In 1991, he was awarded the Special Recognition Award of the Phagocyte Gordon Conference.  His further awards include the 1955 Lederle Medical Faculty Award and the 1966 Gold Medal of the International Reticuloendothelial Society.  He published over two hundred scientific papers during his career.

To learn more about Manfred L. Karnovsky and his collection, please view the online finding aid.

Cyrus H. Fiske Papers Open to Research

By , August 14, 2012
"Phosphocreatine", by Cyrus Hartwell Fiske and Yellapragada Subbarow, 1929.

"Phosphocreatine", by Cyrus H. Fiske and Yellapragada Subbarow, 1929, H MS c387. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Cyrus H. Fiske papers, 1908-1971.

View the online finding aid for the Cyrus H. Fiske papers.

Fiske (1890-1978) was Professor of Biological Chemistry Emeritus at Harvard Medical School and Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Western Reserve University Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio.  Fiske’s research focused on determining the chemical composition of living tissues, including blood, the liver, the spleen, and the pancreas.  With Yellapragada Subbarow (1895-1948), he is credited with developing the colorimetric method for the estimation of phosphorus in solutions in 1925, and with discovering, isolating, and describing two chemical compounds involved in muscle metabolism: phosphocreatine in 1927 and adenosine triphosphate in 1929.

Fiske’s papers are the product of his research and professional activities throughout his tenure at Harvard Medical School as Assistant in Biological Chemistry, Assistant Professor of Biological Chemistry, and Professor of Biological Chemistry; and at Western Reserve University Medical School as Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Assistant Professor of Biochemistry.

The bulk of the papers consist of:

  • research notes and related correspondence concerning various areas of biological chemistry, notably adenosine triphosphate, liver, pernicious anemia, and phosphocreatine;
  • correspondence regarding Fiske’s involvement in professional societies; indices to scientific papers relevant to Fiske’s work;
  • lectures and examination questions prepared by Fiske for his teaching appointments at Harvard Medical School and student work; and
  • personal correspondence with friends and colleagues.

Papers also include:

  • collected publications and newspaper clippings concerning Fiske’s research topics, general scientific and technological developments, and advertisements for laboratory equipment and supplies;
  • reprints of Fiske’s scientific papers;
  • collected audio recordings of three scientific talks; and
  • a research notebook recorded in 1926 by Fiske’s research partner, Yellapragada Subbarow.

Processing of the collection was supported by the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine’s Charles S. Minot Fund for Hematology.  The finding aid is available online.

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