Insulin has been extensively studied since it was discovered by Banting and Best in 1921. Early in 1934, Dorothy Crowfoot and John Desmond Bernal obtained the first X-ray diffraction photograph of an enzyme protein: pepsin. In 1935, they took another photograph of a protein hormone: insulin. The chemical structure of protein was unknown until the amino acid sequence of bovine insulin was solved by Fred Sanger and colleagues in 1955. In 1958, the chemical synthesis of bovine insulin started in China through a nationwide collaboration of three institutions: the Institute of Biochemistry in Shanghai, the Institute of Organic Chemistry in Shanghai and Beijing University. The total synthesis of bovine insulin in crystalline form was accomplished in 1965. The success of the synthesis of the first protein in vitro greatly encouraged young researchers in China. Not long afterwards, the project of structural analysis of insulin crystal was carried out in China through the collaboration of the Institute of Biophysics, the Institute of Physics and Beijing University, and succeeded in 1971. In Dorothy Hodgkin's laboratory in Oxford, X-ray diffraction studies of insulin crystals were resumed after about 30 years, and the structure of rhombohedral insulin crystal was solved in 1969. Through insulin research, the Institute of Biophysics in Beijing and the Institute of Biochemistry in Shanghai established scientific collaboration and personal friendship with Dorothy Hodgkin's laboratory in Oxford, and later Guy Dodson's laboratory in York and Tom Blundell's laboratory in London. In 1975, Dorothy Hodgkin wrote a short note, ‘Chinese work on insulin’ in Nature, anticipating closer scientific exchange between the East and the West. In 1982, a bilateral meeting between the Biochemical Societies in the U.K. and China was held in Oxford. Now, the second bilateral meeting held in Shanghai will further promote the collaboration between our two countries.
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Conference Article| September 21 2011
Insulin research in China and the U.K.
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Youshang Zhang; Insulin research in China and the U.K.. Biochem Soc Trans 1 October 2011; 39 (5): 1323–1326. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/BST0391323
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