Furchgott, Robert Francis
Robert Francis Furchgott, 1916–2009, American biochemist, b. Charleston, S.C., Ph.D. Northwestern Univ., 1940. Furchgott spent his entire career as a professor (1956–89) at the State Univ. of New York. With Louis J. Ignarro and Ferid Murad, he was awareded the 1998 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for discoveries concerning the role of nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. In studying the effect of drugs on blood vessels, Furchgott observed that the same drug could cause both contraction and dilation. He went on to demonstrate that endothelial cells in blood vessels produce a signal molecule that induces relaxation in vascular smooth muscle. At the time of his discovery, the nature of this signal molecule was unknown; it was referred to simply as endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF). Contributions from the other two recipients of the 1998 Nobel prize led to the discovery that EDRF was nitric oxide. Their work later led to the development of sildenafil citrate (Viagra), an anti-impotence drug.