Born in Poland, Andrew Victor Schally is a Nobel-winning scientist whose pioneering research opened up a whole new realm of knowledge concerning the brain's control over the body’s chemistry.
Schally entered McGill in 1952, where he studied endocrinology and conducted research on the adrenal and pituitary glands. Upon graduating with a degree in Science, he served as an assistant in biochemistry at the National Institute of Medical Research in London, and worked in the psychiatry department of McGill. In 1957, he obtained his doctorate in biochemistry from McGill and became an assistant professor of physiology at Baylor University School of Medicine in Houston, Texas. There he was able to pursue his interest in the hormones produced by the hypothalamus.
Scientists had long thought that the hypothalamus, a part of the brain located just above the pituitary gland, regulated the endocrine system, which includes the pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands, the pancreas, and the ovaries and testicles. They were, however, unsure of the way in which hypothalamic hormonal regulation occurred.
Schally's first breakthrough came in 1966 when he and his research group isolated TRH, or thyrotropin-releasing hormone. In 1969 Schally and his team demonstrated that TRH is a peptide containing three amino acids, and in 1971, Schally’s team uncovered the chemical makeup of the growth-releasing hormone (GRH). This innovative hormone research greatly advanced scientists' understanding of the function and interaction of the brain with the rest of the body. Schally’s findings have proved useful in the treatment of diabetes and peptic ulcers, in the diagnosis and treatment of hormone-deficiency diseases and in the development of fertility treatments and contraceptives.
Schally's intense years of hard work and accomplishment were capped by the Nobel Prize in 1977 (shared with Roger Guillemin and Rosalyn Yalow).