@Pharmacologists, Career and Childhood
Alfred G. Gilman born at
Alfred G. Gilman met his future wife, Kathryn Hedlund, while they were working at Melvin Simpson’s laboratory at Yale University. Later they got married while he was studying at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
The couple had three children; Amy, Anne and Edward (Ted) and five grandchildren. Mrs. Gilman was very supporting of her husband’s work and took care of the family almost singlehandedly.
Towards the end of his life Gilman suffered from pancreatic cancer. He died on 23 December 1915 after a long battle with the disease.
Alfred Goodman Gilman was born on July 1, 1941, in New Haven, Connecticut. His father, Alfred Zack Gilman, was a pharmacologist, best known for pioneering chemotherapy techniques using nitrogen mustard. He was also the co-author of the classic text book, ‘Goodman & Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics’.
His mother, Mabel Schmidt Gilman, was an excellent pianist and also a piano teacher. He had an elder sister, Joanna Gilman. The family lived in White Plains, an affluent suburban county just north of New York City.
Alfred Goodman began his education at a local elementary school in White Plains. Later in 1955, he was sent to The Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut. Here he completed grades 10 to 12.
On graduating from school, Gilman entered the Yale University for his B. Sc degree. Here, he was especially inspired by Henry A. Harbury’s lectures on protein chemistry and thermodynamics. Besides, he also enjoyed working at the laboratory of Melvin Simpson and benefited from the latter’s warmth and strong encouragement.
Eventually, he graduated from Yale in 1962, earning his B. Sc. in biology with biochemistry as his major. By now he knew that he wanted to research and so he joined the laboratory of Allan Conney at Burroughs Wellcome & Company in New York. It was here that he published his first two papers.
Soon after receiving his M.D. and PhD degree in 1969, Alfred G. Gilman joined National Institute of General Medical Sciences via the Pharmacology Research Associate Training Program for his post-doctoral work. Here he studied with Marshall Nirenberg, who assigned him to work on axons from cultured neuroblastoma cells.
However, Gilman found the work absolutely uninteresting. So, he started working on a new technique for studying protein binding. Nirenberg highly appreciated the work and had it published in 1970. Very soon it was accepted as a simple, but very important biochemical test for studying cyclic AMP.
The work made him quite famous and in 1971, he received appointment as the Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at the School of Medicine, University of Virginia. Here, he began to investigate how chemical signals are transmitted from the outside to the inside of a cell, a method known as transduction.
By then, Martin Rodbell had established that cyclic AMP is activated when guanosine triphosphate (GTP) is released from the cell membrane. However, it was not yet known how the GTP molecules were produced. Gilman first started on the signaling process in mutant cells.
Subsequently, he found that leukemia cells did not respond to external signals sent by hormones because of loss of certain proteins. Next, he implanted the missing proteins from normal cells into the membrane of the cancerous cells; this restored the cell’s capacity for transduction.
Alfred G. Gilman is best remembered for his discovery of G-protein. His research in this field has helped the scientists to understand how the body receives signals from a variety of hormones in the body and how it reacts to different stimulus like light and odor.
His researches also established that G-proteins are involved in “everything from sex in yeast to cognition in humans” and that their absence can disrupt the normal signal transduction process and cause many diseases like hereditary glandular disorders, cancer, cholera, diabetes, whooping cough, alcoholism etc.