For isolating and elucidating prostaglandins.
K. Sune D. Bergström
Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances, which have wide and significant effects in regulating many vital life processes. The importance of the role of these compounds has been appreciated only in the last decade.
Bergström is the acknowledged world leader in the prostaglandin field. He and his colleagues discovered several functions of prostaglandins, and explored their clinical utility.
One type of prostaglandin E prevents platelets—a blood constituent—from clotting. This discovery is expected to be applied clinically against heart attacks and strokes caused by clots. These prostaglandins, by inhibiting the secretion of gastric acid in the stomach, may also by useful in the treatment of gastric ulcer.
The second E-type prostaglandin, a powerful dilator of blood vessels, has been found in animal experiments to reduce high blood pressure—another cause of heart attacks and stroke. Such blood pressure reduction appears to be the result of accelerated water excretion and inhibition of sodium retention.
Bergström has also developed the clinical use of the strong uterus-contracting properties of prostaglandin F. This type of prostaglandin is now in rapidly increasing clinical use to induce labor at full term and to terminate pregnancy. This discovery has major implications for future research into the regulation of human fertility.
To Sune Bergström, who opened the door to new vistas of exciting and potentially clinically important medical discoveries, and stimulated an explosion of medical research by thousands of scientists the world over, this 1977 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award is given.
Bengt Samuelsson, first working with Sune Bergström on the structural elucidation of prostaglandins, later carried out independent studies which demonstrated that a fatty acid compound called arachidonic acid is the precursor of prostaglandins.
He further discovered that when arachidonic acid is combined with molecular oxygen, it leads to the formation of compounds called endoperoxides, and that these are essential to all prostaglandin metabolism. He subsequently showed that under certain conditions, the release of endoperoxides causes blood platelet aggregation. This information provides a new avenue of study for the causation of coronary occlusion and stroke, the major killers in the western world.
Bengt Samuelsson also elucidated the structure of an entirely new compound, thromboxane A2, a product of prostaglandin metabolism, and showed it to be a potent stimulator of platelet aggregation, and a constrictor of the large blood vessels and bronchi.
His techniques have made possible analysis and measurement of many biologically important compounds previously considered unmeasurable.
To Bengt Samuelsson, for creating new methods that give us new insights into the effects of prostaglandins on the functions of the body, this 1977 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award is given.
For his discovery of prostaglandin X, now renamed prostacyclin, whose major action is to prevent the formation of the kind of blood clots that may lead to heart attack and stroke.
Prior to John Vane's discovery, the reason why platelets sometimes adhere to the walls of arteries, thus contributing to the cause of heart attacks, was not known.
John Vane and his colleagues have shown that the walls of blood vessels produce prostacyclin, which prevents platelets from clumping. However, if the arterial wall is damaged by vascular disease or injury, this effect can be lost, and, as a consequence, the clumping of platelets is not prevented.
Another significant milestone was John Vane's discovery that aspirin-like drugs inhibit the formation of prostaglandins. He proposed that this action is the basis of aspirin's therapeutic effects, a theory now widely accepted. This would mean that a prostaglandin is involved in, or contributes to fever, pain and inflammation.
John Vane devised a simple method for the bioassay of prostaglandins, which he and his colleagues have used over the years. This has resulted in a new body of knowledge about the role which prostaglandins play in health and disease.
To John Vane, for these outstanding contributions which may lead to the development of therapeutic medicines against heart attack and stroke, this 1977 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award is given.