NLM 'Profiles' Web
Site Adds Axelrod Papers
of some of the giants of 20th century biomedicine are newly available
as the National Library of Medicine makes the scientists' archival
collections available through the latest digital technology on its
"Profiles in Science" web
1998, "Profiles" contains the personal collections that scientists
have donated to NLM and features published and unpublished items
including books, journal volumes, pamphlets, diaries, letters, manuscripts,
photographs, audiotapes, video clips and other materials.
The most recent
addition to the archive is pharmacologist and neuroscientist Julius
Axelrod, who shared the 1970 Nobel Prize for discoveries "concerning
the humoral transmittors in the nerve terminals and the mechanism
for their storage, release and inactivation." Axelrod spent his
most fruitful years of research at NIH, first at the (then) National
Heart Institute and later at the National Institute of Mental Health.
According to a recent ABC News poll, one of every eight adults in
the United States has taken Prozac or a similar drug to help relieve
anxiety or depression. That they can do so is the result of research
by Axelrod in the 1960's. His work enabled pharmaceutical firms
to create anti-depressants like Prozac. Prozac and other similar
drugs are called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
because they prevent certain actions of chemicals, called neurotransmitters,
in the brain.
not invent Prozac, but he discovered how early antidepressant drugs
work in the brain, and he coined the term 'reuptake' to describe
those actions," said Dr. Alexa McCray, who directs the "Profiles
in Science" project at NLM.
discovery in the early 1960's, Axelrod's explanation for how neurotransmitters
work has forever altered the way modern pharmaceutical companies
design antidepressant drugs. Furthermore, his work has greatly advanced
how scientists understand the biological basis of human behavior.
Axelrod was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
along with Sir Bernard Katz of University College London and Dr.
Ulf von Euler of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
helped to discover the pain-relieving medicine acetaminophen, better
known by its brand name, Tylenol. He was one of the first scientists
to conduct full studies of caffeine, amphetamine and mescaline.
Until his retirement in 1984, he worked on research projects that
sought to elucidate the relationship between drugs and behavior.
suggested that mental states were the result of complicated physiology
and brain chemistry, rather than the sole result of psychological
or environmental factors. This ushered in an era of pharmacological
drugs that were designed to inhibit or stimulate neurotransmitters
in the nervous system.
The new "Profiles"
site shows off a variety of documents and includes materials that
span the various phases of Axelrod's life and career. These include
examples from his extensive collection of laboratory notebooks showing
his early experiments involving caffeine and LSD, an unpublished
manuscript from 1994, and a large sampling of his most important
to friends as "Julie," still comes to the lab about three times
a week to conduct research, according to Dr. Michael J. Brownstein,
chief, Laboratory of Genetics, NIMH/NHGRI. His contributions are
still felt among his colleagues. As Brownstein recounts, "He has
a greater capacity than most scientists to take pleasure in other
people's novel findings and to suggest followup experiments."
Front Page NIH
Previous Story NIH
story appeared in the June 27, 2000 issue of The