Discoveries Magazine

Cedars-Sinai

Hold the Onions

onions

Bromsulphalein Colorimeter, manufactured by Hynson, Westcott & Dunning Inc., Baltimore, MD. Date of manufacture: circa 1910–1920. Photo: Rachael Porter

In the early 20th century, the dye bromsulphalein was used to test liver function. A patient would be injected with the dye and then, about 30 minutes later, blood was drawn and put into a centrifuge to separate out a clear serum. The serum was mixed with a chemical solution to bring out the color of the dye, which was compared to a set of color standards like the one pictured.

Liver function is still measured with a blood test today, but the process is far more sophisticated. Lab technicians can now determine the levels of key proteins and enzymes that tell a detailed story about liver activity.

The Bromsulphalein Colorimeter set of color standards is maintained by Cedars-Sinai’s Historical Conservancy, along with a wondrous assortment of donated artifacts and documents related to medicine and the development of the hospital since the early 1900s.

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