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Yalow, Rosalyn,

method physicist diagnosis measure

née Sussman [ ya low] (1921– ) US nuclear physicist: developed the radioimmunoassay method.

A physicist with a special interest in radioisotopes, Rosalyn Yalow turned to nuclear medicine and from 1972 was Senior Medical Investigator for the Veterans Administration. Working with S A Berson (1918–72) in a New York hospital, she developed from the 1950s the method of radioimmunoassay to detect and measure peptide hormones (such as insulin) in the blood. The method has proved of great value both in locating the origin of hormones in the body, and in clinical diagnosis and treatment of a variety of diseases and male and female infertility. Extension of the method in the UK has led to better control of digoxin therapy in heart disease and diagnosis of neural crest disease (eg spina bifida) in the fetus. The method can be used to measure very small amounts (10 –12 g) of any substance for which an antibody can be made. Its value in diagnosis and in the control of medication is immense.

Rosalyn Sussman had been a forthright child and her attempts, as a female and Jewish New Yorker, to enter her chosen career before the Second World War did not soften her. Experience as a physicist in the Veterans Hospital, dominated by medical men and service officers, made her abrasive. After Berson’s death she saw that he had been assumed to be the creative member of their 22-year, highly effective professional partnership. Stung by this, she increased her research output in the 20 years before her retirement and became even more confrontational, unsoftened by her Nobel Prize in 1977.

Yamamoto, Yohji [next]

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