Friday, February 4, 2011

Britton Chance (1913-2010)

Britton Chance died late last year. The website states that
Britton Chance, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., for more than 50 years one of the giants of biochemistry and biophysics and a world leader in transforming theoretical science into useful biomedical and clinical applications, died on November 16, 2010, at age 97 in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Chance had the rare distinction of being the recipient of a National Medal of Science (1974), a Gold Medal in the Olympics (1952, Sailing, Men’s 5.5 Meter Class), and a Certificate of Merit for his sensitive work during World War II.
His obituary in the New York Times describes his early work.
Over a lifetime of research, Dr. Chance focused on the observation and measurement of chemical reactions within cells, tissue and the body. But unlike most researchers, he also had expertise in mechanics, electronics and optics, and a great facility in instrument-building. His innovations helped transform theoretical science into biochemical and biophysical principles, the stuff of textbooks, and useful biomedical and clinical applications.

Early in his career he invented a tool, known as a stopped-flow apparatus, for measuring chemical reactions involving enzymes; it led to the establishment of a fundamental principle of enzyme kinetics, known as the enzyme-substrate complex.
Another obituary, in the December 17 issue of Science magazine, observed that
In his mid-70s, Chance (then emeritus) launched a new field of optical diagnostics that rests on the physics of light diffusion through scattering materials such as living tissue. He showed that scattered near-infrared light pulses could not only measure the dynamics of oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin levels in performing muscles, but also reveal and locate tumors and cancerous tissue in muscles and breast as well as injury in the brain. Because changing patterns of oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin in the brain reflect cognitive activity, the applications of this diagnostic approach widened to include assessing neuronal connectivity in premature babies.
Chance appears in the 4th edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology because of his research on light diffusion. In Section 14.4 (Scattering and Absorption of Radiation), Russ Hobbie and I analyze the absorption and scattering coefficients of infrared light, and then give typical values that “are eyeballed from data from various tissues reported in the article by Yodh and Chance (1995),” with the reference being to Yodh, A. and B. Chance (1995) “Spectroscopy and Imaging with Diffusing Light,” Physics Today, March, Pages 34–40.

Then in Sec. 14.5 (The Diffusion Approximation to Photon Transport), we analyze pulsed measurements of infrared light.
A technique made possible by ultrashort light pulses from a laser is time-dependent diffusion. It allows determination of both [the scattering coefficient] and [the absorption coefficient]. A very short (150-ps) pulse of light strikes a small region on the surface of the tissue. A detector placed on the surface about 4 cm away records the multiply-scattered photons. A typical plot of the detected photon fluence rate is shown in Fig. 14.13.
Figure 14.13 is a figure from Patterson, M. S., B. Chance, and B. C. Wilson (1989) “Time Resolved Reflectance and Transmittance for the Noninvasive Measurement of Tissue Optical Properties,” Applied Optics, Volume 28, Pages 2331–2336, which has been cited over 1000 times in the scientific literature.

Finally, in Sec. 14.6 (Biological Applications of Infrared Scattering), we reproduce a figure from the Physics Today article by Yodh and Chance, which shows the absorption coefficient for water, oxyhemoglobin and deoxyhemoglobin.
The greater absorption of blue light in oxygenated hemoglobin makes oxygenated blood red…The wavelength 800 nm at which both forms of hemoglobin have the same absorption is called the isosbestic point. Measurements of oxygenation are made by comparing the absorption at two wavelengths on either side of this point.
This property of infrared absorption of light is the basis for pulse oximeters that measure oxygenation. Not all measurements of blood oxygen use pulsed light. Russ and I cite one of Chance’s papers that uses a continuous source: Liu, H., D. A. Boas, Y. Zhang, A. G. Yodh, and B. Chance (1995) “Determination of Optical Properties and Blood Oxygenation in Tissue Using Continuous NIR Light,” Physics in Medicine and Biology, Volume 40, Pages 1983–1993. A fourth of Chance’s paper that we include in our references is Sevick, E. M., B. Chance, J. Leigh, S. Nioka, and M. Maris (1991) “Quantitation of Time- and Frequency-Resolved Optical Spectra for the Determination of Tissue Oxygenation,” Analytical Biochemistry, Volume 195, Pages 330–351.

In 1987, Chance won the Biological Physics Prize (now known as the Max Delbruck Prize in Biological Physics) from the American Physical Society
for pioneering application of physical tools to the understanding of Biological phenomena. The early applications ranged from novel spectrometry that elucidated electron transfer processes in living systems to analog computation of nonlinear processes. Later contributions have been equally at the forefront.

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