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Paul Ehrlich was a 1908 Nobel Prize-winning German medical scientist and founder of chemotherapy. He made outstanding contributions to immunology and chemotherapy and discovered “Salvarsan,” an effective syphilis treatment. While the drug created controversy and almost ruined Ehrlich’s reputation, its less toxic replacement “Neo-Salvarsan” became the standard treatment for syphilis until penicillin was discovered.
See the fact file below for more information on the Paul Ehrlich or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Paul Ehrlich worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Paul Ehrlich was born in Strehlen, in Upper Silesia Germany, now south-west Poland, on March 14, 1854.
- He was the cousin of Karl Weigert, a famous bacteriologist, through his mother. It was because of him that Ehrlich became fascinated with the process of staining microscopic tissue substances.
- He was the second child of Rosa Weigert, aunt of Karl Weigert, and Ismar Ehrlich, a local Jewish community leader.
- Ehrlich was raised in a small community where his father worked as an innkeeper, royal lottery collector, and distiller of liqueurs.
- Paul Ehrlich’s father was the son of a moderately successful distiller and tavern manager.
- He married Hedwig Pinkus in 1883 and had two daughters, Stephanie and Marrianne.
- Paul Ehrlich suffered from tuberculosis. It halted his career for a few years, and he traveled to Egypt, seeking a cure.
- The news about World War I upset Ehrlich. He recovered from a light stroke in December but became him weaker. His second stroke on August 20, 1915, while on holiday in Bad Homburg, took his life.
- Ehrlich attended an established Maria-Magdalenen-Gymnasium in Breslau where he met his eventual professional colleague Albert Neisser.
- His interest in dyes and staining tissues never wavered when he attended the Universities Breslau, Strassburg, Freiburg-im-Breisgau and Leipzig.
- In 1878, Ehrlich earned his medical degree from the University of Leipzig. He then obtained his doctorate in 1878 with his dissertation “Contribution to the Theory and Practice of Histological Dyes.”
- He became an assistant to professor Frerichs at the Berlin Medical Clinic in 1878. This appointment allowed him to continue his work with the dyes and staining tissues He became a Titular Professor in 1882 and was qualified as a Privatdozent (unpaid instructor) at the University of Berlin’s Faculty of Medicine and later became an Associate professor.
- He also became a Senior House Physician to the Charite Hospital in Berlin.
- He was appointed by Robert Koch, Director of the Institute for Infectious Diseases, in 1890 as one of his assistants. He was able to start his immunological studies there.
- He became a director of the newly-established Institute for the Control of Therapeutic Sera at Steglitz, Berlin in 1896 where he continued his work on immunology.
- In 1897, he assumed the public health officer position at Frankfurt-am-Main, and in 1899, he became the director of the Royal Institute of Experimental Therapy.
- Frau Franziska Speyer founded the George Speyer-Haus and built the building beside the Royal Institute of Experimental Therapy for Ehrlich to be its director in 1904. This non-profit research institute was where Ehrlich carried out most of his work in chemotherapy.
- Paul Ehrlich was trained as a physician but devoted his career to laboratory work.
- He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions to immunology in 1908 with Élie Metchnikoff.
- Moreover, a street in Frankfurt was named Paul-Ehrlich-Strasse, and West Germany also issued a postage stamp in 1954 in commemoration of his 100th anniversary.
- A banknote, issued until 2001, featured Paul Ehrlich. The previously named Steiglitz Institute for Serum Research and the Frankfurt Royal Institute changed its name to Paul Ehrlich Institute to honor him.
- Paul Ehrlich was still a student when he developed a technique to stain tissues. Ehrlich discovered that all dyes should be classified as basic, acid, or neutral to understand their reaction to the various components of blood cells and the cells of other tissues.
- He also proposed terminologies for these cell types and the scientific community soon accepted most of it.
- His work on dyes and staining tissues laid the groundwork for future discoveries on hematology.
- He also studied its therapeutic properties and tested if they could kill off disease-causing microbes. He discovered that methylene blue could kill the malaria parasite.
RESEARCH IN IMMUNOLOGY
- Robert Koch invited Ehrlich to work with him at the Robert Koch Institute. They collaborated with Emil Adolf von Behring, who discovered the application of diphtheria toxoids to animals led to antitoxins’ development, which can be used to immunize other animals.
- In this project, Ehrlich was able to develop effective immunization protocols and proposed to use horses for the commercial production of serum. He also introduced standard protocols in the production process and the large-scale production facilities.
- His appointment in the Institute of Serum Research and Testing allowed him to develop standardized preparations, to quantify and evaluate the effectiveness of antisera. The institute also researched the complex interaction between toxin and antitoxin
- Ehrlich developed the “Side Chain Theory,” which explained how antibodies were formed and how they react to other substances.
- He suggested that every cell has a series of side chains on its surface. These side chains are now called receptors. Each side can interact with a specific nutrient, like how a lock fits a particular key, such as disease-causing toxins produced by an infectious agent.
- When these toxins bind to a side chain, they block subsequent bindings and uptake of nutrients. The cell then produces a surplus of side chains that are released and circulated in the blood that will neutralize the adverse toxin effect on normal cells.
- This theory was criticized by the scientific community. Ehrlich further enhanced his receptor theory with John Newport Langley, who pioneered the “drug-receptor theory.”
- He proposed the existence of so-called ‘chemoreceptors,’ binding sites that were explicitly recognized by certain drugs and their derivatives or specific antagonists.
- This theory paved the way to modern pharmacology and advanced immunology. It also became significant to the development of targeting treatment concepts.
CHEMOTHERAPY AND SALVARSAN
- During his stay at the Royal Institute for Experimental Therapy, Ehrlich developed a scientific concept that he likened to a bullet fired from a gun. He called it the “Magic Bullet.“
- Ehrlich used the term to suggest that there is a perfect drug that can cure a disease without the danger of side effects.
- His “Side-Chain theory” was his “Magic Bullet,” and later chemotherapy, a term he coined himself, and a drug he developed called “Salvarsan.
- He first targeted the protozoa, which was known as the cause of certain diseases. He collaborated with the Japanese bacteriologist Kiyoshi Shiga. They synthesized trypan red to cure those diseases caused by protozoa.
- His appointment as a Director of George Speyer-Haus allowed him to establish a chemical laboratory where chemists and pharmacists synthesized a vast battery of chemical compounds.
- In 1910, the only cure for syphilis was liquid mercury that could cause death or organ damage. Salvarsan was the first clinically tested drug that could kill the syphilis-causing bacterium “Treponema pallidum.”
- It took them 605 tries before they discovered that their 606th compound could cure syphilis.
- Ehrlich’s assistant, a Japanese bacteriologist, Sahachiro Hata, infected a rabbit with the syphilis bacterium and tested the “606” compound Ehrlich and chemist Alfred Bertheim developed. It successfully killed the bacterium but not the rabbit.
- Salvarsan became the most prescribed drug at the time until some scientists observed side effects such as rashes and liver damage. It created what historians dubbed Salvarsan wars. Ehrlich and Hata were heavily criticized for profiting from them. Ehrlich was charged with criminal negligence but was eventually absolved.
- Ehrlich developed a less toxic replacement for Salvarsan called Neo-Salvarsan, which became the standard treatment for syphilis until penicillin was discovered in the 1940s.
Paul Ehrlich Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Paul Ehrlich across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Paul Ehrlich worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Paul Ehrlich who was a 1908 Nobel Prize-winning German medical scientist and founder of chemotherapy. He made outstanding contributions to immunology and chemotherapy and discovered “Salvarsan,” an effective syphilis treatment. While the drug created controversy and almost ruined Ehrlich’s reputation, its less toxic replacement “Neo-Salvarsan” became the standard treatment for syphilis until penicillin was discovered.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Paul Ehrlich Facts
- Ehrlich’s Bio
- Honoring Ehrlich
- Ehrlich’s Work Timeline
- The Doctor’s Researches
- The Good Doctor
- All About Paul
- Paul and Friends
- Major Contributions
- Ehrlich’s Words
- Side-Chain Theory
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