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Ignarro, the Nobel Prize was not the capstone of a career, but the
beginning of something new. It has opened opportunities "to
expand and further my research" and for traveling to "tell
my story"about new therapies Ignarro hopes eventually will
help to reduce mortality.
Ignarro says, has helped to "keep me younger," which is
fitting enough for the man whose research indirectly led to the
development of Viagra. A former speed skater and race-car driver,
Ignarro runs, plays tennis and prides himself on the "brutal
exercise" he says he needs to balance the meticulous lab work,
grant writing and other activities of high-level science that would
otherwise "drive you crazy."
Ignarro was travelling in Italy in 1998 when he learned he had won
the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. By that time, enough
friends had told him to expect the honor that he'd allowed himself
to think it might happen. But he, like Boyer, had encountered professional
skepticism about his theories concerning nitric oxide.
major professional journals refused to publish his contention that
a substance that is basic to nitroglycerin and part of the chemistry
of smog is also crucial to the life process. But over the years,
others repeated his work and confirmed his discovery that nitric
oxide is a neurotransmitter that is, says Ignarro, "perhaps
the most widespread signaling molecule that allows a variety of
different cell types to communicate with one another."