Salvador Moncada was awarded the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine 1992 for his work in medicine and in particular on the role of nitric oxide. His work has deepened our understanding of cardiovascular disease.
In 1992, he was investigating a vasodilatory factor in the endothelium of blood vessels, the endothelium derived relaxing factor (EDRF), discovered over ten years ago. Moncada and his associates discovered that the factor is nitric oxide (NO), and that it is produced by the vascular endothelium in quantities sufficient to induce vasodilation. This bears directly on our understanding of cardiovascular diseases such as angina pectoris and infarcts.
The laureate has also done much to clarify the therapeutic effect of nitrates, utilised ever since 1867 in the treatment of angina pectoris. The most commonly used nitrate is Glyceryltrinitrate (nitroglycerin); dissolved in the mouth in tablet form, the drug relieves the pain in a matter of minutes by inducing acute dilation of the arteries and thus hypotension, which diminishes the load on the heart and the amount of oxygen needed by the myocard. The pain caused by anoxia of the myocard, resulting from the restricted flow of blood in the coronary arteries, disappears immediately. Though the drug may improve the flow of blood in these arteries, that is not its mode of action.
Dr. Moncada's work also has great clinical importance for the understanding of the human immune system.
About the laureate
Dr Moncada is director of research of the Wellcome Research Laboratories in England. He was born in Honduras in 1944. He studied medicine at the University of El Salvador, where he received the MD degree in 1970. Thereafter he went to England to study pharmacology at the University of London's Royal College of Surgeons and at the Wellcome Research Laboratories. He earned the doctorate in pharmacology in 1973, and the Doctor of Science degree from the University of London. Moncada has received many awards, including several honorary degrees.