The top 100 scientific papers
Nature recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Science
Citation Index by listing the 100 most highly cited papers of
all time. Not surprisingly, many of them deal with method-
ology. No. 1 on the list is an article from 1951 that describes
an assay to determine the amount of protein in a solution.
The number of citations? A whopping 305,000 (as compared
with 12,000+ for No. 100). The paper’s author, the late US
biochemist Oliver Lowry, wrote of it in 1977, “Although I
really know it is not a great paper . . . I secretly get a kick out
of the response.”
No. 9 on the list—with 45,131 citations—is an article
well known to lipid researchers. “A simple method for the
isolation and purification of total lipides [sic] from animal
tissues” describes what has come to be known as the “Folch
method.” The paper, which appeared in the Journal of Biologi-
cal Chemistry in 1957, was written by Jordi Folch, Marjorie B.
Lees, and G.H. Sloane Stanley.
“Of the thousands of papers in the lipid literature that
appear annually, very few deal with the topic of lipid extrac-
tion in depth, perhaps because the methodology is tedious
and lacks interest per se,” writes William (Bill) W. Chris-
tie, founder and former editor-in-chief of The AOCS Lipid
Library ( http://tinyurl.com/TALL-Folch). “However, when
analysts want to extract all the simple and complex lipids from
a tissue in a near quantitative manner, they usually return to
the Folch or its variant, the Bligh and Dyer method. . . . Yet
the method is often poorly understood and I suspect that
very few of those who cite it have actually read the paper. For
example, in a high proportion of citations, the third author is
incorrectly given a hyphenated surname.”
The Bligh and Dyer method, it should be noted, is No. 18
on the Nature list, with more than 32,000 citations.
Read the Nature article, which includes a link to the full
list, at http://tinyurl.com/top-100-citations.
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Lipids top five papers
In celebration of the 50th volume of Lipids—which debuted
in 1966—Editor-in-Chief Eric Murphy has chosen five seminal original papers representing the broad areas of research
featured in the journal. These articles will be available for
free download at http://tinyurl.com/Lipids-Fab-5 and will be
highlighted in Inform over the next five months.
No. 5 on the list is “Fatty acid analysis of blood plasma
of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, other types of dementia, and cognitive impairment.” This article, which appeared
in 2000, has been cited 387 times and illustrates how Lipids
has helped to expand the knowledge of biochemical abnor-malities in plasma associated with cognitive decline. The
paper was written by Julie A. Conquer, Mary C. Tierney, Julie
Zecevic, William J. Bettger, and Rory H. Fisher of the universities of Guelph and Toronto.
In the study, the authors analyzed the total phospholipid, phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, and
lysophosphatidylcholine fractions of plasma from patients
with Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias, or who were
cognitively impaired but nondemented, and compared them
with a group of elderly control subjects with normal cognitive
functioning. In brief, the scientists found decreased levels
of eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, total n-3
fatty acids, and a lower ratio of n-3 to n-6 fatty acids in the
subjects with cognitive impairment.