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Summary Article: Samuelsson, Bengt Ingemar
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Swedish biochemist who was awarded a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1982 with Sune Bergström and John Vane for their discovery of prostaglandins and related biologically active substances. Prostaglandins are chemical messengers between cells produced throughout the body.

Swedish physiologist Ulf von Euler originally discovered that human semen and extracts of sheep seminal vesicular glands had peculiar properties. Both substances caused contraction of smooth muscle in vitro (in an artificial environment, such as a test-tube) and sharp decreases in the blood pressure in experimental animals. Euler called the active agents in these substances prostaglandins, because he believed they were made primarily in the prostate gland.

The purification of the prostaglandins was complicated by the very low amounts present in seminal fluid and their extremely short half lives. In 1957, Bergström and Samuelsson managed to obtain crystals from two prostaglandins, PGE1 (alprostadil) and PGF1a, which cause the contraction of smooth muscle. They reported the chemical characterization of these two prostaglandins in 1962.

Samuelsson was born in Halmstad, Sweden, and, after graduating in medicine from the University of Lund, went to work with the eminent biochemist Bergström at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Together they isolated and characterized a family of chemical messengers called prostaglandins. When released by cells in the body, these compounds either act locally to alter the activity of neighbouring cells or act on cells some distance away by entering the bloodstream.

Samuelsson received a doctor's degree in biochemistry in 1960 and in medicine in 1961. He remained at the Karolinska Institute and became dean of its medical faculty.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

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