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Br J Pharmacol. 2006 Jan;147 Suppl 1:S182-92.

Prostaglandins, bioassay and inflammation.

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Department of Biochemical Pharmacology, The William Harvey Research Institute, Charterhouse Square, London EC1M 6BQ.


The formation of the British Pharmacological Society coincided almost exactly with a series of ground-breaking studies that ushered in an entirely new field of research--that of lipid mediator pharmacology. For many years following their chemical characterisation, lipids were considered only to be of dietary or structural importance. From the 1930s, all this changed--slowly at first and then more dramatically in the 1970s and 1980s with the emergence of the prostaglandins (PGs), the first intercellular mediators to be clearly derived from lipids, in a dynamic on-demand system. The PGs exhibit a wide range of biological activities that are still being evaluated and their properties underlie the action of one of the world's all-time favourite medicines, aspirin, as well as its more modern congeners. This paper traces the development of the PG field, with particular emphasis on the skillfull utilisation of the twin techniques of bioassay and analytical chemistry by U.K. and Swedish scientists, and the intellectual interplay between them that led to the award of a joint Nobel Prize to the principal researchers in the PG field, half a century after the first discovery of these astonishingly versatile mediators.

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