Header Image Robert F. Furchgott 1916, Louis J. Ignarro 1941, Ferid Murad 1936

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Robert F. Furchgott:

Photo of Robert F. FurchgottScientists build on each other's work. Furchgott, while studying the effects of drugs on blood vessels, discovered that blood vessels dilate when their surface cells (the endothelium) signal the muscle cells to relax, using a molecule he called "endothelium-derived relaxing factor" or EDRF. Murad noticed that nitroglycerin (which dilates blood vessels) releases the gas nitric oxide (NO) which relaxes the smooth muscles. Ignarro also analyzed EDRF and discovered at the same time as Furchgott that EDRF was truly NO. This was the first evidence that a gas may act as a signal molecule. NO has recently been found to be important in fighting infections, regulating blood pressure, and activating brain functions. For more information about their work, see www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/1998/press.html

Louis J. Ignarro:

Photo of Louis J. Ignarro"Indeed, I spent many long hours thinking about whether I should study chemistry or open up my own drag racing shop out on Long Island. Well, chemistry it was." Louis J. Ignarro, Les Prix Nobel, 1998.

A native New Yorker, Louis J. Ignarro was born to immigrant Italian parents on May 31, 1941. He studied at Columbia University in New York City and received a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Wisconsin. He performed his postdoctoral work at the Laboratory of Chemical Pharmacology at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, under Elwood Titus. As a scientist at Geigy Pharmaceuticals, Ignarro worked on anti-inflammatory drugs. He returned to academia at Tulane University in New Orleans and worked on the question of NO as a signal molecule. He moved to the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine where he continued to work on the effects of NO. For more information about Ignarro, see

Ferid Murad:

Photo of Ferid Murad"With this background I knew that I wanted considerable education so I wouldn't have to work as hard as my parents. Also, I knew at the age of 12 that I was going to become a doctor." Ferid Murad, Les Prix Nobel, 1998

Ferid Murad was born on September 14, 1936 in Whiting, Indiana, the son of restaurant owners. He attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, and did his M.D.-Ph.D. degree work at Western Reserve University School of Medicine under Earl Sutherland on cyclic AMP. He was a clinical associate at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute under Martha Vaughn, where he pursued his interest in hormone regulation. At the University of Virginia, he continued this work; then at Stanford University he began his work on NO. He joined the Abbot Laboratories to work on drug discovery and then went to the University of Texas-Houston to build a division of clinical pharmacology. He concluded that he ended up working harder than his parents, but with more enjoyment. For more information on Murad, see

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