In 1978, Robert F. Furchgott discovered an important compound in endothelial cells that relaxes blood vessels. He called it endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF) and later worked out its nature and mechanism of action. By 1986 he determined that EDRF was in fact nitric oxide (NO). This research was important for many medical and health-related issues and led to the creation of Viagra.From 1989 to 2004, Furchgott was a professor of pharmacology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. He has received a Gairdner Foundation International Award for his groundbreaking discoveries (1991) and the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (1996), the latter with Professor Ferid Murad with whom he shared the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Robert Furchgott died on 19 May, 2009.
Dr Ferid Murad, Professor and Director Emeritus of The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Disease held the John S. Dunn Distinguished Chair in Physiology and Medicine. In 2011, he moved to George Washington University as a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Dr Murad’s key research revealed that nitroglycerin and related drugs release nitric oxide into the body. His work confirmed that this gas acts as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system, making blood vessels dilate. The missing steps in the signalling process were filled in by Robert F. Furchgott and Louis J. Ignarro, for which the three shared the 1998 Nobel Prize. Murad and Furchgott also received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 1996.
For 12 years Dr Louis Ignarro was a professor of pharmacology at Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans. In 1985 he joined the UCLA School of Medicine’s department of molecular and medical pharmacology in Los Angeles and is now professor of pharmacology. Dr Ignarro has also previously worked as a staff scientist for the pharmaceutical division of CIBA-GEIGY Corporation in New York. Nowadays he works with Herbalife to develop Niteworks, a dietary supplement, as a member of the company’s Scientific Advisory Board. He is the founder of the Nitric Oxide Society and founder and editor-in-chief of Nitric Oxide Biology and Chemistry. He calls himself “Doctor NO”. In his book NO More Heart Disease he explained many beneficial effects of Nitric Oxide on the cardiovascular system. He shared the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
In his subsequent video interview, initiated by the American Health Journal, Dr Ignarro also what can boost natural production of NO in the body and what was the drive behind his desion to write his book.
There was some criticism of the Nobel committee’s decision not to award the Nobel prize to Dr Salvador Moncada, who had independently reached the same results as Dr Ignarro. Dr Moncada studied prostacyclin, which acts as an effective vasodilator and also prevents blood platelets from clumping. In 1980 he learned the discovery by Robert Furchgott of ‘endothelium-derived relaxing factor’ (EDRF) which causes smooth muscles in the vessel walls to relax. Dr Moncada and his team showed that EDRF was, in fact, Nitric oxide, which has since become appreciated as a neurotransmitter, a modulator of inflammation and a sensor of cellular distress as well as a regulator of vessel tone. From 1975 to 1995, Moncada worked as professor at the Wellcome Research Laboratories and as Director of Research. In 1995 Professor Moncada took position of Director of the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research at University College London (UCL). He has won numerous awards from the international scientific community including the Prince of Asturias Scientific and Technological Research Award, a Dart/NYU Biotechnology Achievement Award and the Dr AH Heineken Prize for Medicine from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science.