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Bergström, Sune Karl

prostaglandins physiological nobel swedish

[bairg stroem] (1916– ) Swedish biochemist.

Educated at the Royal Caroline Institute in Stockholm, Bergström returned there as professor of biochemistry in 1958. His interest focused on the prostaglandins, a group of related compounds whose biological effects were first noted in the 1930s by U . Their effects are complex, but a common feature is their ability to induce contraction of smooth muscle, and their high potency (10 –9 g can be effective); originally found in human semen, they have since been found in many cells (one rich source is the Caribbean sea whip coral). Bergström first isolated two prostaglandins in pure form, in the 1950s. In 1962 they were shown to have a general structure pattern of a five-carbon ring with chains on adjacent carbon atoms, and much medicinal chemistry has been devoted to them since.

Bergström shared a Nobel Prize in 1982 with two people; the Swedish biochemist B I Samuelsson (1934– ) who had worked with him on the isolation, physiological properties and chemical structure of the prostaglandins: they were shown to be synthesized in the body from polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet. The other Nobel laureate, the British pharmacologist (Sir) J R Vane (1927– ), also worked with prostaglandins: one of his contributions was to show that the effect of aspirin in reducing inflammation, pain and fever is due to it blocking the action of prostaglandins which can cause inflammation in some physiological situations.

Berigan, Bunny (Rowland Bernard) [next] [back] Bergsma, William (Laurence)

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