|Hope for the Future
In 1948, prior to any announcements about the sickle cell anemia studies, Pauling began associating structural chemistry and
medical problems in his speeches and publications. Thus, Pauling anticipated the impact of his upcoming publication with Itano,
Singer, and Wells. Typically, he stressed the importance of studying the structure of organic molecules and used hemoglobin
as an example, by focusing on his own research. He discussed the structure of the hemes and magnetic properties of hemoglobin
and also noted what was unknown by stating that although scientists were trying to ascertain the structure of proteins, they
had not been successful yet. Then, he concluded by foreshadowing the potentialities of chemistry for medicine: "We may hope
that in the course of time a more thorough understanding of the detailed molecular structure of hemoglobin and other complex
substances will be obtained, which will be of aid in the further progress of medicine."
Pauling wasted no time circulating the sickle cell anemia information that he and his co-workers found. And in the years following
the publication of their paper, Pauling continually connected studies on chemical structure to medicine and specifically discussed
sickle cell anemia. In September 1949, Pauling optimistically stated that knowledge about molecular diseases might aid cancer
research, especially leukemia (a cancer of the blood). Pauling summarized what was known and unknown, and how more information
on the structural chemistry of diseases might revolutionize medicine. "We know the abnormal hemoglobin molecule has a positive
charge three units greater than in the normal hemoglobin molecule. We still don't know if this means three negative groups
are missing, or that there are three extra positive groups. This development, if carried to its logical conclusion, means
our structural chemistry and understanding of molecules is getting to the point where it should be of assistance in converting
medicine into a real science."
In commenting upon the history of therapeutics, Pauling stated that most antibiotics (like penicillin and streptomycin) were
discovered "accidentally," and that researchers did not understand how certain substances fought illnesses. According to Pauling,
medical practice had been haphazard in promoting the potential benefits of physical and structural chemistry to medicine.
However, he not only hoped that the future would be different, but also tried to do something about it.