Gilbert Ashwell is a biochemist at the National Institutes of Health in the United States. He is a member of the National Academy of Science for his work with Anatol Morell in isolating the first cell receptor.
Ashwell was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1916. After high school, he went to college to further his education. He attended the University of Illinois, where he earned his B.A.in 1938 and M.S. in 1941. He then went to Columbia University in New York, which was closer to his hometown, to spend two years doing research. In 1950, Ashwell joined the National Institute of Arthirtis, Metabolism, and Digestive Diseases. This Institute had grown and later split into two institutes, which are the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Ashwell still works at the latter as an emeritus scientist.
Ashwell’s goal as a researcher was to devise a labeling serum glycoproteins in order to study the role of ceruloplasmin in Wilson disease. With another researcher named Anatol G. Morell, he worked to propose that membrane lectins remove senescent circulating glycoproteins, and discovered one of the earliest known carbohydrate receptors. They were able to devise a labeling procedure which allowed them to remove enzymes of the glycoproteins' sialic acid residue. By completing this process, they were able to incorporate other substances into the protein. In 1974, Ashwell and Morell happened to discover that a certain receptor in a human’s liver is able to recognize a specific glycoprotein called asialoglycoprotein. Ashwell admitted that he was not specifically looking for the asialoglycoprotein when he found it.
- Kresge, Nicole, Robert D. Simoni, and Robert L. Hill. “Hepatic Carbohydrate Binding Proteins and Glycoprotein Catabolism: the Work of Gilbert G. Ashwell.” The Journal of Biological Chemistry. n.d. Web. 11 March 2010.
- “Gilbert Ashwell: Sweet on Science.” Nature Medicine. 2008. Web. 11 March 2010.
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