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Pauling's instructive theory vs Burnet's selectional theory


Studying myeloma proteins with my graduate student Joe Gally
Gerald Edelman Scientist
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One of the pieces of good luck I had was to be joined by my first graduate student when I did get my degree, and that was Joe Gally, who, as you know, is present here at the Institute now. And Joe was, as he is today, a remarkable synthetic mind; and so here were the two of us laboring away, trying to characterize the physical chemistry of myeloma proteins and compare it to antibodies, and we found that when we split it, it did the same thing. I should... should say that it was more than just looking in a centrifuge; it was something called a starch gel. We now have a different kind of gel but effectively the idea's the same: it's an electrophoretic gel in which instead of running it like that big electrophoresis of Tiselius in free solution, you did it through a medium. Today it's acrylamide; in those days it was starch, and that separated the molecule not only according to charge but according to weight. And so we would see these patterns and what we noticed is that if you did immunoglobulin or gamma globulin which was called from the normal patient it was a smear – it was a black band and a smear. If you did myeloma proteins you got the black band but the smear was not a smear – it was a series of bands, and in each case only one for each myeloma patient, and each one was unique in his migration. Well, if you added up a whole bunch of myeloma proteins it looked like you could make gamma globulin, and that... that convince... convinced us that, hey, you know what, maybe this is a selectional system, not an instructional system.

US biologist Gerald Edelman (1929-2014) successfully constructed a precise model of an antibody, a protein used by the body to neutralise harmful bacteria or viruses and it was this work that won him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1972 jointly with Rodney R Porter. He then turned his attention to neuroscience, focusing on neural Darwinism, an influential theory of brain function.

Listeners: Ralph J. Greenspan

Dr. Greenspan has worked on the genetic and neurobiological basis of behavior in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) almost since the inception of the field, studying with one of its founders, Jeffery Hall, at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where he received his Ph.D. in biology in 1979. He subsequently taught and conducted research at Princeton University and New York University where he ran the W.M. Keck Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, relocating to San Diego in 1997 to become a Senior Fellow in Experimental Neurobiology at The Neurosciences Institute. Dr. Greenspan’s research accomplishments include studies of physiological and behavioral consequences of mutations in a neurotransmitter system affecting one of the brain's principal chemical signals, studies making highly localized genetic alterations in the nervous system to alter behavior, molecular identification of genes causing naturally occurring variation in behavior, and the demonstration that the fly has sleep-like and attention-like behavior similar to that of mammals. Dr. Greenspan has been awarded fellowships from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, the Searle Scholars Program, the McKnight Foundation, the Sloan Foundation and the Klingenstein Foundation. In addition to authoring research papers in journals such as "Science", "Nature", "Cell", "Neuron", and "Current Biology", he is also author of an article on the subject of genes and behavior for "Scientific American" and several books, including "Genetic Neurobiology" with Jeffrey Hall and William Harris, "Flexibility and Constraint in Behavioral Systems" with C.P. Kyriacou, and "Fly Pushing: The Theory and Practice of Drosophila Genetics", which has become a standard work in all fruit fly laboratories.

Tags: Joe Gally

Duration: 1 minute, 37 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008