(1916 - 2009)
Robert F. Furchgott is a Jewish America biochemist and recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine.
Furchgott (born June 4, 1916; died May 19, 2009) was born in Charleston, South Carolina.
Furchgott graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1937
from the University of North Carolina, and became doctor
of biochemistry at Northwestern University in 1940.
From 1940 to 1949, Furchgott worked in a laboratory
at the Medical School at Cornell University. From 1949
to 1956, he moved to Washington University in St. Louis
to continue conducting research and experiments at the
Pharmacology Department. From 1956 to 1988, he was Professor
and Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at the
State University of New York (SUNY) College of Medicine
at New York Cityat the State University of New York.
In 1978, Furchgott discovered a substance in endothelial
cells that relaxes blood vessels, calling it endothelium-derived
relaxing factor (EDRF). By 1986, he had worked out EDRF's
nature and mechanism of action, and determined that
EDRF was in fact nitric oxide (NO), an important compound
in many aspects of cardiovascular physiology.
Aside from the Nobel
Prize in Physiology or Medicine he received in 1998,
Furchgott has also received a Gairdner Foundation International
Award for his groundbreaking discoveries (1991) and
the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (1996).
The following press release from the Royal Swedish
Academy of Sciences describes Furchgott's work:
Nitric oxide (NO) is a gas that transmits signals in
the organism. Signal transmission by a gas that is produced
by one cell, penetrates through membranes and regulates
the function of another cell represents an entirely
new principle for signalling in biological systems.
The discoverers of NO as a signal molecule are awarded
this year's Nobel Prize.
Robert F Furchgott, pharmacologist in New York, studied
the effect of drugs on blood vessels but often achieved
contradictory results. The same drug sometimes caused
a contraction and at other occasions a dilatation. Furchgott
wondered if the variation could depend on whether the
surface cells (the endothelium) inside the blood vessels
were intact or damaged. In 1980, he demonstrated in
an ingenious experiment that acetylcholine dilated blood
vessels only if the endothelium was intact. He concluded
that blood vessels are dilated because the endothelial
cells produce an unknown signal molecule that makes
vascular smooth muscle cells relax. He called this signal
molecule EDRF, the endothelium-derived relaxing factor,
and his findings led to a quest to identify the factor.