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Louis J. Ignarro

AKA Louis Joseph Ignarro

Born: 31-May-1941
Birthplace: Brooklyn, NY

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Nitric oxide as a cardiovascular signal

American pharmacologist Louis J. Ignarro solved the riddle of "EDRF" (endothelium derived relaxing factor), discovered several years earlier by Robert F. Furchgott. He showed that nitric oxide -- the infamous tailpipe pollutant that provides smog and easy suicide -- is also the gas that acts as a signaling molecule, relaxing blood vessels. His conclusion helped explain why nitroglycerin eases chest pains, and has led to other life-saving heart medicines, as well as the erection-building drug Viagra. Furchgott, Ignarro, and Ferid Murad shared the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Ignarro often calls himself "Doctor NO" -- NO being the chemical shorthand for nitric oxide. He is a founder of the Nitric Oxide Society, and editor of its journal, Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry. He might be most familiar to Americans from his appearances in late-night infomercials for World's Greatest Treasury of Health Secrets, a collection of articles on health-related topics. Ignarro's article in the book touts the alleged benefits of herbal supplements containing nitric oxide.

Ignarro has endorsed HeartBar, a chewy candy-bar-like product containing the amino acid L-Arginine. Its manufacturer, Unither Pharma, settled claims of deceptive practices with the Federal Trade Commission in 2003. Ignarro also co-authored an article in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that supported the use of the dietary supplement Niteworks, without disclosing his own connection to Herbalife, the multilevel marketing company that manufactures it. Herbalife promotes Niteworks as preventing cardiovascular disease, though its efficacy in humans has not yet been tested.

Furchgott, one of Ignarro's co-Nobel-recipients, said of Niteworks, "I think with the sort of money they're raking in, they could have done some human studies". Murad, who also shared the Prize, described the $90/month retail price of Ignarro's concoction as obscene. "You can probably get [vitamin] C and E for pennies a day. You can probably get arginine for about a dollar a day."

Father: (carpenter)
Brother: Angelo (b. 10-Jan-1944)
Daughter: Heather (b. 10-Jan-1970)
Wife: Sharon Elizabeth Williams (anesthesiologist, m. 1997)

    High School: Long Beach High School, Long Beach, NY (1958)
    University: BS Pharmacology, Columbia University (1962)
    University: PhD Pharmacology, University of Minnesota (1966)
    Scholar: National Institutes of Health (1966-68)
    Teacher: Pharmacology, Tulane University (1973-79)
    Professor: Pharmacology, Tulane University (1979-85)
    Professor: Pharmacology, University of California at Los Angeles (1985-)

    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1998 (with Robert F. Furchgott and Ferid Murad)
    Geigy Pharmacologist (1968-73)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Heart Association
    American Physiological Society
    American Society for Cell Biology
    American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
    National Academy of Sciences
    Italian Ancestry

Official Website:

Author of books:
Nitric Oxide: Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Therapeutic Implications (1995, with Ferid Murad)
No More Heart Disease: How Nitric Oxide Can Prevent -- Even Reverse -- Heart Disease and Stroke (2005)
Nitric Oxide: Biology and Pathobiology (2000)

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