- Paul Ehrlich
name =Paul Ehrlich
caption =Paul Ehrlich
March 14, 1854
August 20, 1915(aged 61)
Bad Homburg, Hesse, Germany
ethnicity = German
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine( 1908)
Paul Ehrlich (
March 14, 1854– August 20, 1915) was a German scientistwho won the 1908 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He is noted for his work in hematology, immunology, and chemotherapy. Ehrlich predicted autoimmunitycalling it "horror autotoxicus". He coined the term " chemotherapy" and popularized the concept of a " magic bullet". He is credited with the first empirical observation of the blood-brain barrierand the development of the first antibacterialdrug in modern medicine.
Paul Ehrlich was born into a
Jewish family in Strehlen, in the Prussian Province of Silesia(now in Poland). As a schoolboy and student of medicine he was interested in staining microscopic tissue substances.
In his dissertation at the
University of Leipzig, he picked up the topic again ("Contributions to the Theory and Practice of Histological Staining", "Beiträge zur Theorie und Praxis der histologischen Färbung"). He married Hedwig Pinkus (then aged 19) in 1883. The couple had two daughters named Stephanie and Marianne. After his clinical education and habilitation ("The Need of Organisms for Oxygen ", "Das Sauerstoffbedürfnis des Organismus") at the Charitéin Berlinin 1886 he received a call from Robert Kochto join the "Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin" (1891).
Ehrlich spent two years in
Egypt, recovering from tuberculosis. Thereafter he worked with his friend Emil Adolf von Behringon the development of the diphtheriaserum.
These works inspired Ehrlich's famous
side-chain theory("Seitenkettentheorie") from 1897. This theory explained the effects of serum and enabled measurement of the amount of antigen. In 1896 Ehrlich became the director of the newly founded "Institute of Serum Research and Examination" ("Institut für Serumforschung und Serumprüfung") in Steglitz (Berlin). In 1899 the institute was moved to Frankfurt(Main) and extended into the "Royal Institute of Experimental Therapy" ("Institut für experimentelle Therapie"). Here Ehrlich researched chemotherapy and infectious diseases. In 1904 Ehrlich became honorary professor of the University of Göttingen. [Herman A. Metz. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9C00E2DD173CE633A2575BC2A9679C946396D6CF "Solving medical mysteries by help of animals". New York Times, January 28, 1912]
Ehrlich received the Nobel Prize for Medicine together with
Ilya Ilyich Mechnikovin 1908. In 1906 he discovered the structural formula of atoxyl, a chemical compound which had been shown to be able to treat sleeping sickness. Following this discovery, he tried to create a less toxic version of the medicament. In 1909 he and his student Sahachiro Hatadeveloped Salvarsan, a treatment effective against syphilis.
Ehrlich died of a
strokein Bad Homburgin 1915, aged 61.
His life is depicted in the movie "
The Magic Bullet", which focused on Salvarsan (arsphenamine, "compound 606"), his cure for syphilis. His work illuminated the existence of the blood-brain barrier.
magic bullet" concept comes from the experience of 19th century German chemists with selectively staining tissues for histological examination, and in particular, selectively staining bacteria (Ehrlich was an exceptionally gifted histological chemist, and invented the precursor technique to Gram staining bacteria). Ehrlich reasoned that if a compound could be made that selectively targeted a disease-causing organism, then a toxinfor that organism could be delivered along with the agent of selectivity. Hence, a "magic bullet" would be created that killed only the organism targeted.
A problem with the use of the magic bullet concept as it emerged from its histological roots is that people confused the
dyewith the agent of tissue selectivity and antibioticactivity. Prontosil, a sulfa drug whose active component is sulfanilamide, is a classic example of the fact that coloris not essential to antibacterial activity.
The concept of a "magic bullet" was fully realized with the invention of monoclonal antibodies.
References and notes
References and further reading
* [http://www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/1908/ehrlich-bio.html Nobel Museum: Biography of Paul Ehrlich]
* [http://www.chemheritage.org/EducationalServices/pharm/chemo/readings/ehrlich.htm Paul Ehrlich, pharmaceutical achiever]
* [http://www.pei.de/EN/institute-en/paul-ehrlich-en/paul-ehrlich-publications-en.html Paul Ehrlich's publications] (ordered chronologically, as full-text PDF)
* [http://litmed.med.nyu.edu/Annotation?action=view&annid=10059 Film Annotations "Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet"]
*Bernhard Witkop (1999) [http://www.aps-pub.com/proceedings/1434/Witkop.pdf Paul Ehrlich and His Magic Bullets—Revisited] "Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society" 143:4 p.540-557.
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