US geneticist who was awarded a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1985, together with Joseph Goldstein, for their work on the regulation of cholesterol metabolism. They discovered that individuals with inherited high cholesterol levels have either low levels or deficient forms of the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDL-receptor) involved in the removal of cholesterol from the blood. The discovery led to the development of new drugs that lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Brown and Goldstein studied why some individuals have high levels of cholesterol in their blood and found that this susceptibility to hypercholesterolaemia can be inherited in some families. They showed that cholesterol is normally removed from the blood by the binding of cholesterol-carrying molecules, called low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) to specific receptors (LDL-receptors) on the surface of cells in the body. The resulting LDL-receptor complexes are then absorbed by the cells. They further demonstrated that this uptake inhibits the cells' production of new LDL-receptors, which explains why a diet of high-cholesterol foods can overwhelm the body's natural capacity for removing cholesterol from the blood.
Brown was born in New York in the USA. He received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 and worked as a junior doctor at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he met and became friends with Goldstein. They were reunited and started to work together when Brown was appointed assistant professor at the Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas, in 1971.
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