Linus Pauling: Harvey Itano came to work with me; he had an MD degree, and was the first American Chemical Society fellow in pure chemistry
given this fellowship, given to him, so that he could work for a Ph.D. I asked, before he arrived, if he would be interested
in looking at the blood of people with the disease sickle cell anemia to see whether the hemoglobin might not be an abnormal
form of hemoglobin, and he did. It was a hard job; it took three years, and Dr. John Singer and Ibert Wells began helping
him, and sure enough they found that it is different.
Their experiment, I’ll describe it in a simple way, if you take a little trough of salt solution, neutral pH 7, and put a
drop of hemoglobin in it, the hemoglobin has a little negative charge, so if you put in electrodes, the anode here, the cathode
here, positive electrode, the hemoglobin begins to move towards the positively charged electrode. You can see it, it’s red;
you can see that the molecules are moving over. When they put in a drop of hemoglobin from the red cells of a patient with
sickle cell anemia, it began to move toward the cathode, it had a positive charge instead of a negative charge, and the differences
in mobility corresponded to two - this is all old, an old story, but, you know, I’m fond of it - the difference corresponds
to about two electronic charges difference.
They took some blood from the father of a patient and some from the mother and put it in the apparatus, and the blood from
the father, half of it began moving toward the anode and half toward the cathode, and similarly the blood from the mother.
This, of course, explained the genetics. Normal people have two genes, each of which manufactures normal hemoglobin. The sickle
cell patient had two genes that manufactured sickle cell hemoglobin. But the parents were heterozygotes; each parent had one
normal gene and one sickle cell gene. And they set up their assembly lines independently of one another, and the one gene
controlled the manufacture of normal hemoglobin and the other the manufacture of sickle cell hemoglobin. Very interesting.