Arvid Carlsson MD (1923 to Present) and Still Going Strong at 94!
Editor’s note: Short background
Kathleen Montagu (died 28 March 1966) was the first researcher to identify dopamine in human brains. Working in Hans Weil-Malherbe’s laboratory at the Runwell Hospital outside London, the presence of dopamine was identified by paper chromatography in the brain of several species, including a human brain. Her research was published in August 1957, followed and confirmed by Hans Weil-Malherbe in November 1957.
Nobel Prize-rewarded Arvid Carlsson to be the first researcher to identify that dopamine is a neurotransmitter. His research was published in November 1957, along with colleagues Margit Linsqvist and Tor Magnusson.
Arvid Carlsson (born 25 January 1923) is a Swedish neuropharmacologist who is best known for his work with the neurotransmitter dopamine and its effects in Parkinson’s disease. For his work on dopamine, Carlsson was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000, along with American co-recipients Eric Kandel at Columbia University and Paul Greengard at Rockefeller. Carlsson was born in Uppsala, Sweden, son of Gottfrid Carlsson, historian and later professor of history at the Lund University, where he began his medical education in 1941. In 1944 he was participating in the task of examining prisoners of Nazi concentration camps, whom Folke Bernadotte, a member of the royal Swedish family, had managed to bring to Sweden. Although Sweden was neutral during World War II, Carlsson’s education was interrupted by several years of service in the Swedish Armed Forces. In 1951, he received his M.L. degree and his M.D. He then became a professor at the University of Lund. In 1959 he became a professor at the University of Gothenburg.
In 1957 Kathleen Montagu succeeded in demonstrating the presence of dopamine in the human brain; later that same year Carlsson also demonstrated that dopamine was a neurotransmitter in the brain and not just a precursor for norepinephrine. Carlsson went on to developed a method for measuring the amount of dopamine in brain tissues. He found that dopamine levels in the basal ganglia, a brain area important for movement, were particularly high. He then showed that giving animals the drug reserpine caused a decrease in dopamine levels and a loss of movement control. These effects were similar to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. By administering to these animals L-Dopa, which is the precursor of dopamine, he could alleviate the symptoms. These findings led other doctors to try using L-Dopa on patients with Parkinson’s disease, and found it to alleviate some of the symptoms in the early stages of the disease. L-Dopa is still the basis for most commonly used means of treating Parkinson’s disease.
While working at Astra AB, Carlsson and his colleagues were able to derive the first marketed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, zimelidine, from brompheniramine. Zimelidine preceded both Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Fluvoxamine as the first SSRI, but was later withdrawn from the market due to rare cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Still an active researcher and speaker at over 90 years of age, Carlsson, together with his daughter Maria, is working on OSU6162, a dopamine stabilizer alleviating symptoms of post-stroke fatigue.