- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Two Americans and a Swede who spent their scientific careers tracing the workings of the human brain have won this year's Nobel Prize in medicine.

The Americans are neuroscientist Paul Greengard, 74, of New York's Roosevelt University and Dr. Eric R. Kandel, 70, of Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, also in New York.

The Swede is Dr. Arvid Carlsson, 77, emeritus professor at Sweden's Gothenburg University. Dr. Carlsson is the first Swedish Nobel laureate since 1982.

The scientists won the million-dollar prize not for sudden breakthroughs but for decades of separately conducted yet related basic research. Their efforts have led to greater understanding of memory and brain activity.

The Nobel Assembly at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, which awards the prize, said the scientists' "discoveries have been crucial for an understanding of the normal function of the brain and how disturbances in this signal transduction [or transfer of genetic material from one cell to another] can give rise to neurological and psychiatric diseases."

In fact, the discoveries have facilitated development of advanced treatments for Parkinson's disease, depression, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and even drug abuse.

Mr. Greengard, for example, discovered how dopamine acts on the nervous system and how other chemicals cause the brain's 100 billion nerve cells to communicate and ultimately make the body function.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a hormonelike chemical that triggers the brain's nerve cells to act. It travels to parts of the brain that produce smooth body movement. Thus discovering how dopamine works was remarkably important for those with Parkinson's disease, which destroys the chemical, causes tremors and, among other things, affects the ability to walk.

Mr. Greengard's revelations facilitated production of drugs for Parkinson's and schizophrenia, along with other diseases.

Mr. Greengard is the second Roosevelt University Nobel Prize winner in two years and the 21st in the university's 99-year history. Biologist Gunter Blobel won last year for work on proteins.

Sweden's Dr. Carlsson also studied dopamine and neurotransmitters. His work led to use of the drug L-dopa for treating dopamine depletion in Parkinson's victims, and he is credited with laying the groundwork for development of such depression-treating drugs as Prozac.

Ralf Pettersson, chairman of the Nobel Assembly, told Reuters that Dr. Carlsson's work relieved the suffering of millions. "Parkinson's used to be a disease of which people would die a horrible death, often by suffocation… . These people now can get acute symptoms treated with L-dopa… . That's almost a magical thing," he said.

The Vienna-born Dr. Kandel, a professor of physiology and psychiatry, is the founding director of Columbia University's center for Neurobiology and Behavior. He has demonstrated where in the brain memory is located, how memories are lost and how humans learn.

"We are who we are because of what we learn and what we remember," he told reporters.

Dr. Kandel, a Jew, noted that he came to the United States in 1939 "at the request of Adolf Hitler," and he described his reaction to winning the prize as ranging from "disbelief to euphoria."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide