Paper chromatogram scanner LB 280, Europe, 1980-1989
Used for paper chromatography, this machine was modified to become a piece of equipment known as a radioactivity paperstrip scanner. The results were printed out from the paper-fed panel on the left. The University of Oxford Glycobiology Unit carried out the modification in order to perform experiments to determine the sequence of polysaccharides. These are the huge sugars which are found attached to proteins, for instance on the surface of cells. The polysaccharides on cell surfaces can differ between people and over time, and can predispose for immune conditions such as arthritis. The apparatus was donated to the Science Museum’s collections by the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford. The group under Professor Raymond Dwek pioneered methods of automated analysis of these sugar groups. Their work underpinned Oxford’s first commercial spin-off company, Oxford GlycoSystems, in which the University kept a shareholding. Professor Dwek himself coined the word ‘glycobiology’ in 1988.
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