Narrator: Along with his protein study, he had also been spending years looking into the properties of hemoglobin, in blood cells. Normal
blood cells, like these, are disc-shaped, which enable them to pass through blood vessels easily. But blood cells can be diseased.
Sickle cell anemia results with the sickling of cells, so that they become ridged, and crescent-shaped. The sickled cells
clump together, making it more difficult for them to pass through the blood vessels. The disease is inherited, and often causes
pain and weakness in its victims.
Linus Pauling: I had the idea in 1945 that the disease sickle cell anemia might be the disease of the hemoglobin molecule. No one had ever,
so far as I'm aware, no one had ever suggested the idea of a molecular disease before. As soon as I had this idea I thought,
"this must be right, from what I know of the properties of these patients. I believe that this is a disease of the molecule,
and that if we look at the blood of these patients, we shall find that the hemoglobin molecules are different from those of
Narrator: Pauling had made a profound educated guess. But it took years before techniques were developed that could investigate his
ideas. Eventually it was confirmed that the victims inherited hemoglobin which does indeed have a defective molecular structure.
Dr. Harvey Itano, who began working with Pauling in 1946, is today, along with other scientists, experimenting with different
chemicals, trying to stop blood cells from sickling. Pauling has taught a generation of scientists to think in molecular terms,
and he helped to establish the new science of molecular biology.