Louis J. Ignarro
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1998
Born: 31 May 1941, Brooklyn, NY, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of California School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Prize motivation: “for their discoveries concerning nitric oxide as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system”
Prize share: 1/3
Louis Ignarro was born in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were both Italian immigrants, and his father worked as a carpenter. Ignarro studied chemistry and pharmacology at Columbia University in New York and received his doctorate from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. After a period with Geigy Pharmaceuticals, in 1973 Ignarro joined Tulane University in New Orleans. Since 1985 he has been associated with UCLA in Los Angeles. Ignarro is married and has a daughter from a previous marriage.
Ferid Murad’s studies of how nitroglycerin and nitric oxide (NO) cause blood vessels to expand inspired Louis Ignarro to conduct studies of his own at the end of the 1970s. He also looked for the substance that, according to Robert Furchgott, was formed in the innermost layer of blood vessels and produced a similar effect. Simultaneously with Furchgott, but independently of him, Ignarro revealed in 1986 that NO was this substance. The discovery has made possible new medications, such as those used to treat heart and cardiovascular diseases and impotence.