Monday, August 5, 2013

Discovery of thiamine

Christiaan Eijkman (1858-1930) was trained as a prison medical officer for the Netherlands Indies Army. 

Many of his prisoners had the disease of beriberi. They were fed a diet of primarily polished rice. Beriberi was first described in 1628 in Batavia by the Dutch physician Jacobus Bontius one of the pioneers of tropical medicine.

Eijkman in his experiment inoculated chickens with material from patients ill with beriberi. His inoculated chickens did develop polyneuritis but so did uninoculated chickens.

In 1889, just at the beginning of his investigation, beriberi in his chickens disappeared. Eijkman had tried unsuccessfully to isolate infectious agents that might have been responsible for beriberi.

Eijkman later discovered that a new cooked had changed the diet fed to the chickens. The chicken diet returned to the lowly unpolished rice, and with this change, the chicken neuritis disappeared.

Eijkman demonstrated that of the chickens were fed unpolished rice their symptoms reversed. He showed that there was a substance in the outer layers and germ of the rice grain that protected the chickens from the disease.

It was not until 1926 that the substance was finally isolated in crystalline form by Barend Coenraad Petrus Jansen and Willem Frederik Donath.

An American physician, Edward Bright Vedder (1878-1952) of the US Army Medical Corps in the Philippines, determined to find out what is was in the rice that treated beriberi.

In 1933 William succeeded in determining the structure of thiamine, ahead of his many competitors. Three years later together with Joseph K. Cline and Jacob Finkeltstein, he had synthesis thiamine.

Christiaan Eijkman was awarded Nobel Prize in 1929 in physiology or medicine for his work involving thiamine.
Discovery of thiamine

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