Anatomy of a Scientific Discovery: The Race to Find the by Jeff Goldberg

By Jeff Goldberg

In overdue 1973, scientists John Hughes and Hans Kosterlitz spent the vast majority of their time in an underfunded, imprecise, and cramped laboratory in Aberdeen, Sweden. whereas engaged on the brains of pigs, the duo found a nonaddictive narcotic chemical that they was hoping to later locate in human brains. in the event that they might isolate this chemical in people, maybe they can have the option to aid the area start to heal itself. Hughes and Kosterlitz’s learn might unavoidably cause them to detect endorphins, the body’s personal traditional morphine and the chemical that makes it attainable to suppose either ache and pleasure.

Announcing their findings to the clinical global thrust Hughes and Kosterlitz within the highlight and made them celebrities. quickly, scientists world wide have been swiftly studying the human mind and its endorphins. In many years’ time, they'd use the team’s preliminary examine to hyperlink endorphins to drug habit, runner’s excessive, urge for food keep watch over, sexual reaction, and psychological health problems resembling melancholy and schizophrenia.

In Anatomy of a systematic Discovery, Jeff Goldberg describes Hughes and Kosterlitz’s lives prior to, in the course of, and after their ancient and medical step forward. He additionally takes a glance on the larger photo, revealing the brutal festival among drug businesses to discover how to profit from this huge discovery.

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He was already seventy-three when his assay, using a tiny bit of twitching nerve tissue from the lower intestine of guinea pigs, demonstrated that there was opiate activity in a chemical fragment distilled from pig brains by his colleague John Hughes. And Avram Goldstein, the discoverer of dynorphin, the most powerful endorphin, died in 2012. He was ninety-two. But, the “younger” generation of endorphin investigators are all still at work. Solomon Snyder was only thirty-six when he and his twenty-nine-year-old postdoc Candace Pert discovered molecular receptors in the brain that fit opiates exactly like a lock fits a key.

Since all the other possibilities had been accounted for by the dextrorphan, any radioactive levorphanol remaining in the soup would indicate binding to receptors, and only receptors. Despite the cleverness of Goldstein’s grind and bind technique, his own results had been disappointing so far: Only about 2 percent of the radioactive material remained in the beakers. “It was like picking up a very weak signal on a shortwave radio during a static storm,” he recalls. While that was not nearly good enough to prove the existence of opiate receptors, “stereospecificity” became the litmus test for detecting them, and a number of other researchers in the field began struggling to make Goldstein’s technique work.

By the end of the morning a pile of twenty or so would accumulate at his feet. The sky lightened gradually. The sun, an unwarming, pale disk, rose at about eight, and all work came to a halt shortly after ten. Hughes collected his equipment and washed his hands at a cold water faucet. As the men began to leave for the Butcher’s Arms or some other nearby pub, rats came out to scavenge the bloody refuse in the slaughterhouse’s open field. Hughes pedaled back through the monstrous Gothic archway of Marishal College at about ten-thirty.

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