Andrzej Wiktor Schally, also known as Andrew W. Schally, was born on November 20, 1926, in Wilno, Poland. During World War II, Schally had to leave Poland and live among the Jewish-Polish Community in Romania. In 1945, he moved via Italy and France to England and Scotland.
Andrew Schally had his formative education in Scotland and England. In 1950, he joined the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR, MRC) Mill Hill in London, England. In May 1952, he moved to Montreal, Canada. He received his doctorate in endocrinology from McGill University in 1957. That same year he left for a research career in the United States and worked at Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, until 1962. At Baylor, Schally became Assistant Professor of Physiology and a Senior Research Fellow of the U.S. Public Health Service.
A Canadian citizen when he left Canada, Schally became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1962.
In June 1962, the Veterans Administration (VA), made Schally the chief researcher on the hypothalamus. In December 1962, he was appointed Chief of the Endocrine and Polypeptide Laboratories at the VA Hospital in New Orleans and Associate Professor of Medicine at Tulane University. In 1966, he was made a full professor.
He developed a whole new realm of knowledge concerning the brain’s control over body chemistry. His works were also concentrated on birth control methods and growth hormones. He, as well as Roger Guillemin, described the neurohormone GnRH that controls FSH and LH. He was awarded an honorary Doctoral Degree from Jagiellonian University at Kraków.
The following press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences describes Schally' work:
“The discoveries of Roger Guillemin and Andrew Schally deal with another sector of peptide hormone physiology and medicine.
The pituitary gland secretes a number of hormones which are transported with the blood to most hormone producing glands in the body. In these, they stimulate their specific function - to produce and release hormones. It has long been known that the central nervous system in some way could modulate endocrine functions and that, probably, the brain stem - the hypothalamus - acted as an intermediary in this process. In some way, information was passed to the hypophysis which, by way of its specific hormones, transferred the information to the other endocrine glands. As early as 1930, it was discovered that small blood vessels connected the hypophysis with the hypothalamus, and that these might be the route of transport of the information from the brain to the hypophysis.
Towards the end of the 1950's, Guillemin and Schally, each in his own laboratory, were able to extract from the hypothalamus of sheep and pigs some compounds which, when administered to pituitary tissue, brought about release of its hormones. One extract made the pituitary release ACTH, another TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), a third one LH and FSH (the gonadotrophic hormones) etc. They termed these substances "releasing factors or hormones", RF or RH. The one inducing the release of TSH, thus was called TSH-RF or TRF.
However, it was not until 1969 that the nature of these hypothalamic factors would be established. Guillemin was working with 5 million hypothalamic fragments from sheep, and Schally with the same amount of material but from pigs. They concentrated their efforts to the search for one of the releasing factors, TRF. After years of struggle, during which the two groups established a formidable race, they stood there one day with 1 mg (!) of a pure substance with one single mode of action: it released TSH from the hypophysis. This was TRF. After another few months the structure of TRF was established. It is an extremely small peptide composed of three amino acids in a special fashion:
Within the same year TRF was synthesized by the Guillemin group.
The ice was broken. Within two years LH-RH was isolated, sequenced and synthesized, firstly by Schally and shortly afterwards by Guillemin.
Guillemin's and Schally's discoveries laid the foundations to modern hypothalamic research. The experiences from animal research was rapidly transferred to humans and brought into clinical work. Several new peptides were isolated from the hypothalamus, the foremost one probably being the first inhibitor of pituitary function: somatostatin, which decreases the production of pituitary growth hormone.
As an extension of Guillemin's and Schally's discoveries may be regarded the exciting finding of peptides in the brain with morphine-like activity, the endorphines. Peptides with hormone-like activity have also been identified in other parts of the brain. The central nervous system more and more moves forward as an endocrine organ, which opens fascinating perspectives in medicine. We are looking forward to an enormous development in this field, to which Guillemin and Schally opened the door.
The important discoveries by the 1977 Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine has led to a formidable development of their own fields of research. Further, they have opened new vistas within biological and medical research far outside the borders of their own spheres of interest.”