Theodore Nicolas Gobley - Discoverer of Lecithin and Phospholipids - Putting in Light The Chemical Bridges From Egg Yolk To Human Brain, 1847

Putting in Light The Chemical Bridges From Egg Yolk To Human Brain, 1847

In this very same work, Gobley developed an awareness that this phosphoric part was a new, non-characterized and complex component of a precise nature and stable structure, not a mixture of sub-products in varying proportions:

If therefore neither one of oleic acid, margaric acid nor glycerophosphoric acid existed as such in the viscous matter (of egg yolk), what kind of a (molecule) can that be (that is their source), that indisputably presents one of the most unusual set of properties within all the (fractions) of biological tissues
Mais si les acides oléïque, margarique et phosphoglycérique ne préexistent pas dans la matière visqueuse, quelle est donc la nature de ce corps, qui est sans contredit l'un des plus curieux de l'organisation animale?

Having recognized the uniqueness of this component from this work in the pivotal year 1847, Gobley henceforth bore most of his research efforts on it.

Already in this same year of 1847, Theodore Gobley realized the deep similarities of chemical structure between brain tissues and egg yolk.

Taking up the previous work of Vauquelin, Couërbe and Frémy, he isolated as they had from the fat matters of animal brain as well as from the human brain a phosphoric fraction, but going one step further, he demonstrated that this brain matter yields through hydrolysis exactly the same set of by-products that he had obtained from egg yolk: ever the triad oleic acid, margaric acid, glycerophosphoric acid (Journal de Pharmacie et de Chimie 1847, 12, 5).

I have rerun all those experiments using the phosphoric viscous matter from the brain of chicken, of sheep, and finally of man, and ever I am come to the same results. There then exists in the brain, just as in egg yolk, a phosphoric substance which, under the conditions I exercised unto it, has always yielded as decomposition products oleic acid, margaric acid and glycerophosphoric acid.
J'ai répété toutes ces expériences avec la matière visqueuse phosphorée de la cervelle du poulet, du mouton et de l'homme, et je suis arrivé aux mêmes résultats. Il existe donc dans le cerveau, comme dans le jaune d'oeuf, une substance phosphorée qui, dans les conditions où je l'ai placée, m'a toujours donné, pour produits de décomposition, de l'acide oléique, de l'acide margarique et de l'acide phosphoglycérique.

This set of solid results led him into proposing for cerebral tissues a chemical structure parallel to that of egg yolk, relying on a phosphoric part, lecithin, and a non-phosphoric, nitrogenous part, cerebrin ("Recherches chimiques sur les oeufs de carpe". Journal de Pharmacie et de Chimie 1850, t17, 401, et t18, 107). This approach set him immediately at odds with the views developed up to then by Edmond Frémy, the prominent specialist of that period regarding the chemical study of the brain and a member of the Académie des Sciences; Frémy's views were that the phosphoric fraction of brain was related to the phospho-oleic acid.

Another twenty years were employed by Gobley to fully demonstrate the point.

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