Bengt I. Samuelsson Biography
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Bengt Ingemar Samuelsson
Born in: Halmstad, Sweden
Famous as: Biochemist
awards: 1982 - Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
1975 - Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize
1981 - Gairdner Foundation International Award
1977 - Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research
Bengt I. Samuelsson is a Swedish biochemist, who, along with Sune K. Bergström and John R. Vane, won the 1982 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine “for discoveries concerning prostaglandins and related biologically active substances". While studying medicine at the University of Lund, Samuelsson met his mentor, Sune K. Bergström, who at that time was working on prostaglandins at the same university. Although Samuelsson initially wanted to work on cholesterol metabolism, he soon changed his mind and joined Bergström’s team. Later, he followed his mentor to Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and there he continued both his medical studies and his graduate work. Subsequently after receiving his degrees, he joined his alma mater as Assistant Professor of Medical Chemistry and continued his research work with Bergström. After years of painstaking work, Samuelson was able describe the molecular structure of prostaglandins and also to show that the compound is derived from arachidonic acid. Later, he began to concentrate on the transformation products of arachidonic acid, which in turn led to the identification of endoperoxides, thromboxanes and the leukotrienes. He also showed how this acid combines with oxygen to form prostaglandins. In a symposium held in 2014, scientists from all over the world hailed him as the founder of the research field Lipid Mediators.
- Bengt Ingemar Samuelsson was born on 21 May 1934, in Halmstad in southwest Sweden, to Anders Samuelsson and Kristina Nilsson Samuelsson. He was the only child of his parents.
- Bengt had his early education at local public schools. Later, he entered University of Lund to study medicine. On earning his B.S. degree in biology, he decided to take up cholesterol metabolism and its reaction mechanisms for his graduate work. Instead, he was picked up by Sune Bergström, who at that time, was the professor of physiological chemistry at the University of Lund and was working on prostaglandins.
- At the University of Lund, Bergström gathered a team of graduate students and started his his work on prostaglandins. Samuelsson was one of them. By 1957, using countercurrent fractionations and partition chromatography, their team isolated two prostaglandin compounds, E1 and F1.
- A year later in 1958, Bergström joined Karolinska Institute in Stockholm as a professor of chemistry and moved his entire research team with him. Samuelsson also went with him.
- At Karolinska, they continued with their research on prostaglandin. Concurrently with his graduate work in biochemistry, Samuelsson continued his medical studies. Finally, in 1960, he finished his dissertation and became docent in medical chemistry. Then in 1961, he received his MD degree from Karolinska Institute.
- In 1961, Samuelsson was appointed as the Assistant Professor of Medical Chemistry at Karolinska Institute Concurrently, he also received one-year research fellowship at Department of Chemistry, Harvard University. He went to the United States in the same year and joined Harvard University as research fellow.
- In 1962, on the completion of the fellowship period, Samuelsson returned to Karolinska Institute as Assistant Professor. Here, he rejoined Bergström’s team and resumed his work on prostaglandins. Later, he successfully determined the molecular structure of the compound and started working on synthesizing it.
- In 1964, they established that prostaglandins are derived from an unsaturated fatty acid, called arachidonic acid. Later, Samuelsson developed a process by which arachidonic acid was first combined with oxygen to form endoperoxides, which was later converted into prostaglandins.
- In 1967, Samuelsson left Karolinska Institute to join Royal Veterinary College at Stockholm as the Professor of Medical Chemistry. Here too, he continued his work on prostaglandins, establishing its importance on livestock breeding and other veterinary applications.
- In 1973, he returned to Karolinska Institute as Professor of Medical and Physiological Chemistry. At the same time, he also became the Chairman of the Department of Chemistry. Also in 1973, he discovered thromboxane, which is known for its blood clotting properties.
- In 1976, he went to the USA to spend one term at the Harvard University as visiting Professor in Chemistry. In spite of his academic responsibilities, he kept on his research work and in 1978, discovered leukotrienes, which is produced in leukocytes by oxidation of arachidonic acid.
- On July 1, 1978, Samuelsson became the Dean of the Medical Faculty, Karolinska Institute and remained at the post till June 30, 1983.
- On July 1, 1983, he became the Rector (the Vice Chancellor) of the institute, a position he held till his retirement in 1995.
- His later works involved studying the chemistry, biology and biochemistry of the three compounds he had discovered: endoperoxides, thromboxanes and leukotrienes. He especially put stress on their contribution in biological control systems.
- In the 1980s and 1990s, he laid especial stress on the effects of drugs on leukotriene pathways and studied new agents, which might have the capacity to inhibit the actions of leukotrienes. These researches made significant contribution to different medical conditions like thrombosis, inflammation, and allergy.
- Samuelsson’s work on prostaglandins remains his most significant contribution to physiology and medicine. He was not only the first to describe its molecular structure, but he also showed that the compound is derived from an arachidonic acid, found in certain vegetable oils and meats. Later, he showed how this acid combines with oxygen to form prostaglandins.
- In 1982, Samuelsson received Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his “discoveries concerning prostaglandins and related biologically active substances". He shared the prize with his mentor Sune K. Bergström, who worked with him on the same project and also with John R. Vane, who worked separately on it.
- Samuelsson met his future wife, Karin Bergstein, while he was a student at University of Lund. Later they got married and the couple has one son, Bo, and two daughters, Elisabet and Astrid.
- In August 2014, researchers from all around the world met for a three-day symposium held in Karolinska Institutet. In this symposium, they honored Professor Samuelsson as the founder of the research field Lipid Mediators.
- On April 22, 2015, The Bengt Samuelsson Institute of Life Science was inaugurated in Jiangyin City of China. The institute focuses on the development of biomedical and pharmaceutical projects.
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