Biochemistry and the Manufacture of Fine Chemicals


    IN the Jubilee Memorial Lecture, 1933-1934, of the Society of Chemical Industry, delivered under the above title, Dr. F. H. Carr dealt chiefly with recent progress in the field of hormones and vitamins. In referring to the ill-defined boundary between biochemistry and organic chemistry, he classed as biochemical “those substances that exert dynamic properties in connexion with living processes and are directly concerned with chemical changes underlying physiological function”. He characterised the technical production of insulin from the pancreas as one of the most important applications of biochemistry to the fine chemical industry, since countless human beings are kept alive by the use of this product. Insulin is a protein-like body of high molecular weight and unknown constitution, which enables the animal organism to deal with glucose; the total amount required daily by the human subject is about 5 mg. Only about 1 mg. per diem of thyreo-globulin, which occurs in the thyroid gland, is needed to promote the primary oxidative changes in the body. This complex protein owes its physiological properties to an iodine-containing derivative, thyroxine. The constitution of this substance is known, and it may be produced commercially at a cost lower than that of natural thyroxine. Adrenaline, another active hormone, which produces “all the vascular and visceral reactions accompanying the emotions of danger, excitement, and fright”, has also been synthesised and subjected to successful large-scale manufacture.

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    Biochemistry and the Manufacture of Fine Chemicals. Nature 134, 112 (1934).

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