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Sir John Robert Vane

(1927—2004) pharmacologist


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(1927–2004) British pharmacologist Vane studied chemistry at the University of Birmingham and pharmacology at Oxford, where he obtained his DPhil in 1953. He then worked at the Royal College of Surgeons, serving as professor of experimental pharmacology from 1966 until 1973, when he moved to the Wellcome Foundation as director of research and development. In 1985 Vane left Wellcome to serve as director of the William Harvey Research Institute, St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London. He was knighted in 1984.

Vane worked on hormonelike substances, the prostaglandins, first observed by Ulf von Euler in the 1930s. In the 1960s he began to explore their physiological roles. He extracted in 1969 a substance from the lung tissue of rats sensitive to an allergen. As it caused rabbit aortas to contract it was named ‘rabbit aorta contracting substance’ (RCS). He also found that RCS caused blood platelets to clot. It was later shown by Bengt Samuelsson that RCS contained the prostaglandin PGH2 as an active ingredient. But Vane had earlier shown that the effects of RCS could be inhibited by aspirin and other antiinflammatory drugs. This allowed Vane to propose a mechanism for both the effects of aspirin and prostaglandins. Aspirin, he argued, reduced pain, inflammation, and fever by blocking the action of prostaglandins which, at least in some cases, seemed to produce precisely these effects. For his work in this field Vane shared the 1982 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine with Samuelsson and Sune Bergstrom.

He also worked on the pharmacological effects of adrenaline (epinephrine) and edited the CIBA Foundation symposium on the subject, Adrenergic Mechanisms (1960). He was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine (with Sune Bergstrom and Bengt Samuelsson).

From A Dictionary of Scientists in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics.


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