The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1998 was awarded jointly to Robert F. Furchgott, Louis J. Ignarro and Ferid Murad “for their discoveries concerning nitric oxide as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system.”
|Nobelist||Born||Died||Affiliation at the time of the award|
|Robert F. Furchgott||4 June 1916, Charleston, SC, USA||19 May 2009, Seattle, WA, USA||SUNY Health Science Center, Brooklyn, NY, USA|
|Louis J. Ignarro||31 May 1941, Brooklyn, NY, USA||University of California School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, USA|
|Ferid Murad||14 September 1936, Whiting, IN, USA||University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Houston, TX, USA|
Nitric oxide protects the heart, stimulates the brain, kills bacteria, etc.
It was a sensation that this simple, common air pollutant, which is formed when nitrogen burns, for instance in automobile exhaust fumes, could exert important functions in the organism. It was particularly surprising since NO is totally different from any other known signal molecule and so unstable that it is converted to nitrate and nitrite within 10 seconds. NO was known to be produced in bacteria but this simple molecule was not expected to be important in higher animals such as mammals.
Further research results rapidly confirmed that NO is a signal molecule of key importance for the cardiovascular system and it was also found to exert a series of other functions. We know today that NO acts as a signal molecule in the nervous system, as a weapon against infections, as a regulator of blood pressure and as a gatekeeper of blood flow to different organs. NO is present in most living creatures and made by many different types of cells.
– When NO is produced by the innermost cell layer of the arteries, the endothelium, it rapidly spreads through the cell membranes to the underlying muscle cells. Their contraction is turned off by NO, resulting in a dilatation of the arteries. In this way, NO controls the blood pressure and its distribution. It also prevents the formation of thrombi.
– When NO is formed in nerve cells, it spreads rapidly in all directions, activating all cells in the vicinity. This can modulate many functions, from behaviour to gastrointestinal motility.
– When NO is produced in white blood cells (such as macrophages), huge quantities are achieved and become toxic to invading bacteria and parasites.
Please click https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/1998/press-release/ for more detailed information.
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