American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
Arthur Karmen
1991 Outstanding Contributions in a Selected Area of Research

Arthur Karmen will receive the 19th annual AACC Award for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Chemistry in a Selected Area of Research. The award is sponsored by Roche Diagnostic Systems.

Dr. Karmen was born in New York City in 1930. He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1946 and earned an A.B. and M.D. in 1950 and 1954, respectively, from New York University. In 1952, while a medical student working on a summer project at Memorial-Sloan Kettering, he used paper chromatography of amino acids to demonstrate the presence of glutamic-oxaloacetic and glutaniic-pyruvic ransaminases (aspartate and alanine aminotransferases) in serum and blood. In 1954, he devised the spectrophotometric method for measuring aspartate aminotransferase in serum, which, with minor modifications, is still used for diagnostic testing today. When developing this assay, he studied the reaction of NADH with serum and demonstrated the presence of lactate and malate dehydrogenases, both of which were also later used in diagnosis. Using thespectrophotometric method, he found that aspartate aminotransferase increased in the period immediately after an acute myocardial infarction and did the pilot studies that showed its diagnostic utility in heart and liver diseases.

After a two-year residency in internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital, he joined the research staff of the National Heart Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he worked for seven years in the Laboratories of Metabolism and then of Technical Development. His major interests there were instrumentation for gas chromatography, and he developed several new ionization detectors, e.g., the direct current and radiofrequency gas discharge detectors and the helium ionization detector, as well as a series of methods for measuring adioisotopes in chromatographic effluents in studies of lipid metabolism. Dr. Karmen continued this work in instrumentation for analytical chemistry at the Division of Nuclear Medicine of Johns Hopkins University. From 1963 to 1968, he devised flame ionization detectors specifically for halogens and phosphorus by using alkali metal salts, in forerunners of what is now known as the nitrogen-phosphorus detector.

He also devised methods for sensitizing these devices to other heteroatoms (e.g., fluorine), developed methods for using flame ionization detectors in liquid chromatography, and did further work with detecting radioactivity. Dr. Karmen was Director of Clinical Laboratories at New York University and Bellevue Hospitals from 1968 to 1971. From 1971 to the present he has worked at Albert Einstein College of Medicine as Director of Clinical Laboratories at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center and the Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; since 1973 he has also served as Chairman of the Department of Laboratory Medicine. As Laboratory Director, he has emphasized devising systems for operating the laboratory that maximize the impact on patient care, through use of automated instrumentation to return laboratory data quickly and to reduce the cost of testing. Dr. Karmen’s research in chromatography expanded to include devising new methods for therapeutic drug monitoring, post-column reactors for HPLC that offer high-sensitivity detection of bile acids and steroid hormones, and micro-fraction detectors for HPLC that offer new approaches to detecting radioactivity. He has worked extensively with 1316 CLINICAL CHEMISTRY, Vol.37, No. 7, 1991 centrifugal analyzers for kinetic serum enzyme assays and for immunoassays involving reverse passive magglutination with enzymes as labels. Two of the latter studies resulted in patents. Other studies, involving “sandwich” immunoassays with monoclonalantibodies, have helped define heterophilic antimouse antibodies as potential interferences and sources of false-positive immunoassay results. His most recent work in chromatography involved devising a new approach to measuring low concentrations of radioactivity on-line in flowing chromatographic streams, an approach that offers sensitivity almost comparable with that of off-line measurements; his most recent work in enzymology included studies of new methods for measuring isoenzymes of transferases and lactate dehydrogenase in serum. He is also deeply involved in studies of the clinical interpretation of proffles of serum bile acid in liver and other diseases that may redefine the interpretation of serum enzymes in myocardial infarction, particularly the utility of aspartate aminotransferase in serum and the importance of low concentrations of creatine kinase MB isoenzyme.

Dr. Karmen has been the author or co-author of 127 publications to date, and holds three patents. He received the Alfred Sloan Award for Cancer Research in 1957, the Van Slyke Award of the New York Metropolitan Section of the AACC in 1979, and the Tswett Award of the International Symposium on Advances in Chromatography in 1981. He has been a member of the AACC since the early 1970s, and a member of the Executive Committee of the New York Metropolitan Section since 1979.