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Leading neurobiologist helps celebrate world renowned ‘pain relief’ scientist

One of the University of Aberdeen’s most famous scientists who co-discovered that the brain produces morphine-like chemicals is being recognised tomorrow (Thursday, May 8).

Dr Hans Kosterlitz coutesy of Alan NorthDr Hans Kosterlitz was in his seventies when together with his colleague John Hughes they won an international race to identify naturally occurring endorphins which affect both how we feel pleasure and help fight pain.

Widespread recognition and many plaudits followed for the scientist who continued leading a unit, which was an international leader in opiate research, until he was approaching his nineties.

Many thought Dr Kosterlitz - who was honoured with a Lasker Award which is awarded annually to people who have made major contributions to medical sciences – would get a Nobel prize.

Indeed when he first joined the University of Aberdeen in 1933 he worked with Professor John  R Macleod who later shared the Nobel prize for the discovery of insulin.

Tomorrow the University celebrates his achievements with the very first Hans Kosterlitz Lecture to be delivered by Peter Somogyi, FRS, Professor of Neurobiology, and Director of the Medical Research Council's Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit, Oxford.

Professor Bill Wisden, Chair in Neuroscience at the University of Aberdeen, has organised the talk. He said: "I am absolutely delighted that Professor Peter Somogyi, who is an extremely eminent scientist, has agreed to give the inaugural Kosterlitz lecture which will be an annual event.

"Kosterlitz was Aberdeen's most famous biologist whose pioneering research paved the way for understanding how the brain generates relief from pain and also feels reward and pleasure."

Professor Somogyi added: "I feel enormously honoured to deliver the first Hans Kosterlitz Lecture.

"Kosterlitz and his colleagues, in particular John Hughes, at Aberdeen opened a new window on the brain by the discovery of the endogenous opiates, the enkephalins, and even more significantly their receptors.

"This pioneering work, the fruit of a systematic and exemplary rigorous scientist catalysed research on the family of chemical messengers called neuropeptides involved in many physiological and pathological processes such as pain, addiction, feeding and anxiety, to mention only a few.

"Kosterlitz's discoveries have also guided my own work in the molecular dissection of the circuits of the brain.

"By coincidence, just as I received the news of the lecture awarded to me, I was working on a manuscript reporting the identification of a novel cell that uses the chemical messenger enkephalin in the area of the brain, the hippocampus, that is involved in learning and anxiety. I will include this unpublished work in my lecture on the 8th of May in Aberdeen."

The Hans Kosterlitz Lecture takes place at the University's Institute of Medical Sciences between 11am and 12 noon.



Notes to Editors:

Professor Bill Wisden is available for interview – please contact Jennifer Phillips to arrange.


Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.

Issued on: Wednesday 7th of May 2008

Contact: Jennifer Phillips

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