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Three scientists share Nobel Prize in medicine

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October 10, 2000 


STOCKHOLM (Bangla2000 news-desk/AP) - A Swede and two U.S. researchers won the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for discoveries about how messages are transmitted between brain cells, work that has paid off for treating Parkinson's disease and depression.

Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel will share the 9 million kronor (dlrs 915,000 prize for their pioneering discoveries concerning one way brain cells send messages to each other, called "slow synaptic transmission."

These discoveries have been crucial for understanding how the brain normally works. The work also laid the groundwork for developing the standard treatment for Parkinson's disease and contributed to the development of a class of antidepressants that includes Prozac, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute said.

Carlsson, 77, is with the University of Goteborg in Sweden, Greengard, 74, is with Rockefeller University in New York and Kandel, 70, is an Austrian-born U.S. citizen with Columbia University in New York.

The medicine prize was the first announced in a week of awards.

The winners of the prizes for physics and chemistry will be announced Tuesday and for economics on Wednesday in Stockholm. The awards culminate Friday with the coveted peace prize in Oslo, Norway.

The date of the literature award - traditionally kept secret until a couple days before it is announced in Stockholm, has not been set, but it is always a Thursday, usually in October.

Carlsson said he had not met the American researchers but was thrilled to share the award.

"What shall I say, you get glad of course, overwhelmed so to speak," he said in an interview with Swedish radio. "It's an honor to get the prize together with these two outstanding scientists."

Carlsson's studies have led to the discovery of the drug L-dopa - used to treat Parkinson's disease - which is still the most important treatment for the disease, the committee said.

His work has contributed strongly to the development of a generation of anti-depression drugs called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which includes Prozac, the Nobel committee said.

"The discoveries of Arvid Carlsson have had great importance for the treatment of depression, which is one of our most common diseases," the citation said.

The research by Kandel and Greengard built on Carlsson's studies in the 1950s, Marie Aasberg of the Nobel committee said.

Greengard was awarded for his discovery of how dopamine and other chemical messengers shuttle information between brain cells, helping scientists to regulate the neurotransmitter and contributing to studies on addiction.

"Dopamine is central to addiction," Ralf Pettersson, chairman of the Nobel committee, said. "You have smokers, you have alcoholics and drug abusers. They all center around dopamine levels and how dopamine is regulated."

Kandel was cited for his research on the biology of memory, showing the importance of changes in the synapse, the place where chemical messages pass from one brain cell to another.

Tim Bliss, head of neuroscience at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, said Kandel's work could someday lead to new treatments for Alzheimer's disease and other conditions involving memory loss.

"It's a very major piece of work and he's been an outstanding leader in the field for many years," Bliss said. "He identified the physical embodiment of learning and memory in the brain."

This year's award for medicine was bumped to the top slot after the academy failed to reach a decision last week on the literature price - usually the first announced.

Alfred Nobel, the wealthy Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite, left only vague guidelines in his will establishing the prizes. The selection committees deliberate in strict secrecy.

As for the medicine prize, Nobel's direction that a prize be awarded to the person who made "the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine" is interpreted by a committee of 50 professors from the world-renowned Karolinska Institute in the Swedish capital.

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska invites nominations from previous recipients, professors of medicine and other professionals worldwide before whittling down its choices in the fall, as do the other selection committees.

Last year's winner was Dr. Guenter Blobel, 64, a German native and U.S. citizen who discovered how proteins find their rightful places in cells - a process that goes awry in diseases like cystic fibrosis and plays a key role in the manufacture of some medicines.

Carlsson was the first Swede to win a Nobel prize since 1982, when Sune Bergstroem, Bengt Samuelsson and John R. Vane of Britain shared the medicine prize, according to the Swedish news agency TT.

The prizes - first awarded in 1901 - always are presented Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896.

The prizes for medicine or physiology, physics, chemistry, literature and peace were endowed in Nobel's will, while the economics prize was established and endowed by the Swedish national bank in 1968 and first awarded in 1969.

Excerpts from the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute awarding the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Monday to Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel "for their discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system."


Arvid Carlsson is rewarded for his discovery that dopamine is a transmitter in the brain and that is has great importance for our ability to control movements. Carlsson performed a series of pioneering studies during the late 1950s. Carlsson used a naturally occurring substance, reserpine, which depletes the storage of several synaptic transmitters. He realized that the symptoms caused by reserpine were similar to the syndrome of Parkinson's disease.

As a consequence L-dopa was developed as a drug against Parkinson's disease and today is still the most important treatment of the disease. The discoveries of Arvid Carlsson have had great importance for the treatment of depression, which is one of our most common diseases.


Paul Greengard is rewarded for his discovery of how dopamine and a number of other transmitters exert their action in the nervous system. Towards the end of the 1960s it was known that dopamine, nonadrenaline and serotonin were transmitters in the central nervous system but knowledge about their mechanism of action was lacking. Greengard (discovered) how they exert their effects at the synapse.

Paul Greengard's discoveries concerning protein phosphorylation have increased our understanding of the mechanism of action of several drugs, which specifically affects phosphorylation of proteins in different nerve cells.


Eric Kandel is rewarded for his discoveries of how the efficiency of synapses can be modified, and which molecular mechanisms take part. Kandel started to study learning and memory in mammals, but realized the conditions were too complex ... and therefore decided to investigate a simpler experimental model, the nervous system of a sea slug. With the nervous system of a sea slug ... he has demonstrated how changes of synaptic function are central for learning and memory.

Even if the road towards an understanding of complex memory functions still is long, the results of Eric Kandel have provided a critical building stone.

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