Dr. Julius Axelrod

Dr. Julius Axelrod (1912-2004)

Axelrod was an influential American biochemist, who, along with Bernard Katz and Ulf von Eule, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1970, for work on the release, reuptake and storage of the neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine, also known as adrenaline and noradrenaline. Axelrod also made major contributions to the understanding of the pineal gland and how it regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Working on monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors in 1957, Axelrod showed that catecholamine neurotransmitters do not merely stop working after they are released into the synapse. Instead, neurotransmitters are recaptured (reuptaken) by the presynaptic nerve ending, and recycled for later transmissions. He theorized that epinephrine is held in tissues in an inactive form and is liberated by the nervous system when needed. This research laid the groundwork for later selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, which block the reuptake of another neurotransmitter, serotonin.

Background: Despite poverty

Surrounded by bright young people

Findings: reuptake and the Nobel prize