University of Minnesota

George Mann–John Gofman Episode

The Tale of the Missing Lipoproteins

John Gofman tells a tale on George Mann:

“George Mann is an interesting guy.  I would say I had to respect some things he did in the very beginnings of the Lipid Cooperative Study. George said, ‘I don’t want to go spending a half year or a year figuring out how they run this ultracentrifuge.  I’d like to come out to your lab and learn.’  So he did. George was in the lab, I guess something like three or four weeks, where he participated in the running of the samples. 

“What wasn’t so great was what happened after George left.  About a month later he called me up and said, ‘John, I hate to say this, but I can’t find any of those lipoproteins at all.’ I said, ‘What do you mean you can’t find them?’ He said, ‘We went through the procedure and I’m sorry about it, but we just don’t find those lipoproteins.  We don’t find any of them.’

“So I said,  ‘George, what are you telling me here, you can’t find them.  If you followed the procedure we outlined with human blood you’re going to find lipoprotein in these classes.’ He said, ‘We don’t find it. So I said, ‘Well, let’s just start over and talk about it.’ And we took each one of the steps. You know, you add this and that, and then it came to one thing he read, ‘You invert the tubes.’

“‘Invert the tubes, George?’ Silence”.

“And that solved the whole problem.” 

[The centrifuge tubes had to be inverted to mix in salt to increase the density of the serum solution, allowing lipoprotein fractions to separate out by density at appropriate spin rates.]

(Gofman interview. April, 2003.San Francisco)