STOCKHOLM — Texas geneticists Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein today won the 1985 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering new ways to treat and prevent certain types of artery disease and heart attacks.
Brown and Goldstein have said their research may one day make it "possible for many people to have their steak and live to enjoy it too," according to the Nobel committee.
The Nobel Medicine Prize Committee cited Goldstein, professor and chairman of the department of molecular genetics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Dallas, and Brown, a professor in the same department, for their discoveries in the regulation of cholesterol metabolism.
Defective Cell Molecule
The doctors discovered that atherosclerosis and heart attacks may stem from genetic defects in a cell molecule called the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor, from which cholesterol in the blood is extracted.
The Nobel Institute said the discoveries of the two Americans have "revolutionized our knowledge about the regulation of cholesterol metabolism and the treatment of diseases caused by abnormally elevated cholesterol levels in the blood."
Reached at a hotel in Boston where he is attending a conference at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown, 44, said, "All I can say is I'm very surprised and honored."
Goldstein, 45, attending the same conference, said: "It's very exciting. I am still trying to believe it's true. I hope physicians and patients will become more aware of the problem of cholesterol and atherosclerosis."
Particle Intake Regulated
Nobel officials said Brown and Goldstein found that cells of the human body have receptors on their surfaces that affect the intake of cholesterol-containing LDL particles that circulate in the bloodstream.
The receptors discovered by the two researchers regulate the amount of cholesterol in the blood. A person with many receptors can eat more cholesterol-rich food, like eggs and red meat, with less risk of ill effects.
The receptors on the surface of cells pick up "packets" containing cholesterol, absorb them and break them up.
The two Americans were credited with research showing that lack of functional receptors figured in cholesterol-related illness, including familial hypercholesterolemia, an inherited form of high cholesterol levels that causes high blood pressure and that can cause heart attacks even in children.
Reduced numbers of receptors, they found, can lead to increased levels of cholesterol in the blood that can later accumulate in arteries and cause heart attacks or strokes.
"The discoveries made by Brown and Goldstein have drastically widened our understanding of the cholesterol metabolism and increased our possibilities to prevent and treat arteriosclerosis and heart attacks," the citation said.
"But their discoveries have even more far-reaching implications," the Nobel citation said, noting that their research may eventually lead to medication that could increase the number of LDL receptors and thus, in connection with diet changes, reduce the risk of cholesterol-related illness.
Sixty American doctors have won the Nobel Medicine Prize, awarded since 1901.
Last year the medicine prize was shared by three immunologists for work that has helped diagnose AIDS and may help cure cancer.
The medicine prize is the second Nobel to be announced this year. Each award carries a record cash sum of $225,000.
The peace prize, made public in Oslo on Friday, was won by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War of Boston, an anti-nuclear group. The prizes in economics, physics, chemistry and literature will follow later this week.