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J Biol Chem. 2011 Jun 17;286(24):21023-32. doi: 10.1074/jbc.X111.258020. Epub 2011 May 4.

Mind molecules.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


Scientific styles vary tremendously. For me, research is largely about the unfettered pursuit of novel ideas and experiments that can test multiple ideas in a day, not a year, an approach that I learned from my mentor Julius "Julie" Axelrod. This focus on creative conceptualizations has been my métier since working in the summers during medical school at the National Institutes of Health, during my two years in the Axelrod laboratory, and throughout my forty-five years at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Equally important has been the "high" that emerges from brainstorming with my students. Nothing can compare with the eureka moments when, together, we sense new insights and, better yet, when high-risk, high-payoff experiments succeed. Although I have studied many different questions over the years, a common theme emerges: simple biochemical approaches to understanding molecular messengers, usually small molecules. Equally important has been identifying, purifying, and cloning the messengers' relevant biosynthetic, degradative, or target proteins, at all times seeking potential therapeutic relevance in the form of drugs. In the interests of brevity, this Reflections article is highly selective, and, with a few exceptions, literature citations are only of findings of our laboratory that illustrate notable themes.

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