Roger Guillemin

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Dijon, France
Birth Sign
Dijon, France

Roger Charles Louis Guillemin is a French-born American physiologist who shared the 1977 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology with Andrew V. Schally, a Polish-American endocrinologist, and Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, an American medical physicist. Guillemin is regarded as a pioneer in the field of neuroendocrinological research, which examines the interaction of the central nervous system and endocrine glands such as the pancreas, thyroid, and pituitary. He concentrated on the brain’s production of hormones and their effect on the body. Guillemin established that the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain, releases hormones that regulate the pituitary gland, a theory first proposed by English anatomist Geoffrey W. Harris. His research paved the way for subsequent scientific pursuits and developments that aided in the understanding of the brain’s physiology and problems associated with infertility, juvenile diabetes, and thyroid disorders. He investigated fibroblast growth factor receptors, which are currently used to treat diseases such as diabetic blindness and other eye-related problems. His research also included the study of activins and inhibins, two peptides involved in menstrual cycle control. Several awards and honors have been bestowed upon him, including the ‘French Legion of Honor’ (1973), the ‘National Academy of Sciences’ (1974), the ‘Lasker Award’ (1975), the ‘National Medal of Science’ (1976), and the ‘Dickson Prize in Medicine’ (1976). (1976).

Childhood & Adolescence

He was born Raymond Guillemin and Blanche Rigollot Guillemin on January 11, 1924, in Dijon, Burgundy’s capital city. His father was a tool and die maker.

He attended public schools and the Dijon lycée. Following that, he earned a BS from the ‘University of Burgundy’ in 1942.

He earned a master’s degree from the ‘University of Burgundy’ in 1944. His studies, however, were interrupted by the ongoing ‘Second World War.’ While the Nazis occupied France, he joined the French underground and assisted refugees in fleeing to Switzerland.

In 1949, he earned an M.D. from the ‘University of Lyon.’ In Paris, he was profoundly influenced by a lecture by the eminent Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye on the latter’s alarm reaction and the endocrinology of the general adaptation syndrome.

After meeting Selye and receiving a modest fellowship from his funds, he relocated to Montreal, Quebec to pursue postgraduate doctoral studies at the ‘Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery’ at the ‘Université de Montréal’.

He worked with Selye there and graduated from the university with a Ph.D. in Physiology in 1953. During his time at the ‘Université de Montréal,’ he had the opportunity to study experimental endocrinology as part of a joint program with ‘McGill University.’

Career of Roger

After earning his Ph.D. in 1953, he joined ‘Baylor College of Medicine’ in Houston, Texas, as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology, where he remained until 1962. He then became a Professor of Physiology at the College, a position he held until 1970, totaling 18 years at the ‘Baylor College of Medicine.’

He began his research in endocrinology by examining the hypothesis of English anatomist Geoffrey W. Harris that the hypothalamus, located at the base of the brain just below the pituitary gland, releases hormones that circulate in the blood and regulate the pituitary gland.

He collaborated with Schally at Baylor, where they used the mass spectroscopy technique and a new device called radioimmunoassays (RIAs) developed by physicists Rosalyn Sussman Yalow and Solomon Berson to aid in isolating and identifying hormone chemical structures.

Thus, Guillemin and Schally established themselves as two such avant-gardes that isolated, identified, and deduced the chemical nature of hormones.

Meanwhile, from 1960 to 1963, Guillemin taught endocrinology at the ‘Collège de France’ and became a naturalized US citizen in 1963.

He was appointed Director of the Laboratory for Neuroendocrinology by ‘Baylor University,’ at which point his scientific collaboration with Schally ceased and was replaced by an intense competition to determine hypothalamic hormones.

To conduct his research, he collected sheep hypothalami from slaughterhouses and, according to him and his collaborator, chemist Roger Burgus, obtained approximately five million hypothalamic fragments from sheep brains, which entailed handling approximately five hundred tons of brain tissue.

In 1968, he and his colleagues isolated thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) or thyrotropin-releasing factor (TRF), which is produced by the hypothalamus and stimulates the release of thyrotropin (TSH), a thyroid stimulating hormone.

Both Guillemin and Schally independently discovered the structure of TRH or TRF in 1969. He and his colleagues then isolated and identified the chemical structures of additional hormones and chemicals.

These include somatostatin, a hormone that inhibits the release of other hormones such as growth hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing-releasing factor (LRF), a hormone that regulates the body’s reproductive functions.

He then shifted his focus to another class of substances known as neuropeptides, where he investigated endorphins released by the central nervous system and pituitary gland. Endorphins’ primary function is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals, acting as the body’s natural analgesic.

He also studied two closely related protein complexes with diametrically opposed biological effects, activin and inhibin, which are peptides involved in menstrual cycle control.

Guillemin remained a resident fellow and research professor at the ‘Salk Institute for Biological Studies’ in California from 1970 until his retirement in 1989.

Among his publications are ‘Pharmacological Control of Hormone Release, Including Anti-Diabetic Drugs’ (1962); ‘The Brain as an Endocrine Organ’ (1978); and ‘Hypothalamic Control of Pituitary Functions: The Growth Hormone Releasing Factor’ (1979). (1986).

He co-signed a petition with other Nobel Laureates urging a delegation from the United Nations’ ‘Committee on the Rights of the Child’ to travel to China to visit Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, a Tibetan child identified by Tenzin Gyatso – the 14th Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama and detained in the country since 1995 under house arrest.

He is an avid collector of contemporary American and French paintings. Additionally, he collects pre-Columbian art objects and artefacts from around the world.

Guillemin is also a gifted abstract impressionist artist who creates images on his Macintosh computer and then transfers them to paper or canvas via inkjet or lithography. Guillemin’s artworks have been exhibited in prestigious galleries throughout America and Europe.

Awards and Accomplishments

He and Andrew V. Schally and Rosalyn Sussman Yalow shared the 1977 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology.

Personal History and Legacies

In 1950, he died of tuberculosis meningitis. This is how he came into contact with Lucienne Jeanne Billard, a nurse who cared for him throughout his illness.

He married Lucienne in 1951, and she later became a professional harpsichordist. The couple has five daughters named Elizabeth, Chantal, Helene, Cecile, and Claire, as well as a son named François.

Estimated Net Worth

Roger Guillemin is one of the wealthiest physicians in the world and is ranked among the most popular physicians. Roger Guillemin’s net worth is estimated to be around $1.5 million, based on our analysis of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.