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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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NO News Is Good News for Medicine Nobelists
13 October 1998 7:00 pm
Three U.S. researchers learned yesterday that they will share the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering that the gas nitric oxide (NO) acts as a messenger molecule in the body. The find led to the development of the popular impotence drug Viagra and offered hope for new blood pressure and tumor treatments.
The $975,000 prize will be divided equally among pharmacologists Robert Furchgott at the State University of New York in New York City, Louis Ignarro at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Ferid Murad at the University of Texas Medical School, Houston, for their discovery of how nitric oxide can pass a signal from one cell to another. Because NO is such a simple molecule--it is a common pollutant in car exhaust fumes--scientists were amazed by its sophisticated functioning.
In 1986, Furchgott and Ignarro independently presented their work showing that NO worked as a signaling factor in blood vessels, thereby triggering research worldwide. It was later found that NO tells blood vessels throughout the body to relax, which in turn lowers blood pressure and increases blood flow. Murad, meanwhile, discovered that nitroglycerin, a long-standing treatment for heart disease, works by releasing NO from cells. White blood cells also use the gas to defend against tumors.
The award has already sparked controversy. Strict rules prevent the Nobel committee from awarding the prize to more than three people, but critics say the committee overlooked key researchers. In particular, the decision not to include pharmacologist Salvador Moncada at University College London drew fire from senior scientists. Rudi Busse, a nitric oxide researcher at the University of Frankfurt, said he was "exceedingly surprised" that Moncada, who carried out key experiments when he worked for the Wellcome Foundation in the 1980s, had not been included.