LYSOZYME – the discovery of the Nobel Prize winner

The famous Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming received the Nobel Prize in 1945, together with Sir Howard W. Floreyem and Ernst B. Chain – for the discovery of penicillin and its “curative effect on various infectious diseases“.

However, before the discovery of penicillin (1928), Fleming discovered LYSOZYME in 1922!  Like many other great discoveries that changed the course of world history, these two great Fleming discoveries happened “quite by accident”!

During November 1921, Fleming had a severe cold and while working with already prepared cultures of bacteria, he sneezed heavily so that a drop of nasal secretions accidentally sank into a Petri dish. A few days later, while tidying up his usual pile of tubes and moldy Petri dishes for culturing microorganisms, he noticed something unusual – one of the Petri dishes was covered with golden-yellow colonies of bacteria, however – at the spot where a drop of mucus accidentally fell from two weeks ago of his nose — there were no bacteria at all! As if they were completely erased!

He continued his research and proved that other body fluids also contain a substance that quickly dissolves certain bacteria. He named this substance LYSOZYM, which is a combination of the word “lysis” – dissolution and the word “enzyme” – a protein that catalyzes chemical reactions.  LYSOZYM is an enzymatic protein, made up of 129 amino acids.

Fleming hypothesized that LYSOZYM could potentially destroy some bacterial cells without harming human cells. Because of this, Fleming wanted to discover the significance of this substance by researching its properties. He described the details of his research in an article published in 1922.

He failed to convince his colleagues of the significance of this discovery, who considered it an interesting but irrelevant observation – so they later treated his first reports of the discovery of penicillin. Fleming assumed that much more would be heard about this enzyme in the future. He spoke: “One day we will hear a lot more about lysozyme.” Until his death in 1955, he also insisted that “the discovery of lysozyme would one day arouse greater interest than the discovery of penicillin.”

Today, the mechanism of antibacterial action of lysozyme is known in detail.  LYSOZYME has become the center of interest of many scientists, so looking at the catalogs of the National Library of Medicine, we find as many as 27,633 scientific articles that mention the term LYSOZYME and 6,591 articles that mention the term LYSOZYME ACTIVITY.

In these scientific papers, various effects and numerous beneficial pharmacological effects of LYSOZYME have been identified and proven. Each of the basic effects of LYSOZYMES can occur independently of each other, but they also encourage and complement each other.

LYSOZYM is also called “antibiotic of the body”, and its overall role in the body justifies the name – “enzyme of the future”.

 

References:

  • Jollès, P. (1996) From the discovery of lysozyme to the characterization of several lysozyme Experientia Suppl. 75, 3-5
  • Fleming, A. (1922) “On a remarkable bacteriolytic element found in tissues and secretions” , Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 93 (653): 306-317                                                                             
  • National Library of Scotland 2009, http://digital.nls.uk/scientists/biographies/alexander-fleming/discoveries.html

PubMed – US National Library of Medicine; National Institute of Health; ncbi.nlm.nih.gov./pubmed

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