Michael Brown is a molecular geneticist who, together with biochemist Joseph Goldstein, revealed how the human metabolism controls cholesterol. Michael and Joseph won the 1985 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine and went on to develop new drugs designed to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Michael and Joseph compared healthy cells with those from people with familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic tendency towards abnormally high blood cholesterol and related ailments. They uncovered a genetic defect resulting in a lack of cell receptors for low-density lipoproteins (LDL) — the primary cholesterol carrying particles. In healthy people, these receptors draw LDL particles from the bloodstream into cells that then break down the cholesterol.
The capture of LDL prevents cells from creating new receptors. This explains why a high cholesterol-diet overwhelms the body’s ability to regulate cholesterol levels. Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs developed from Michael and Joseph’s research are currently the most widely prescribed medications in the United States.
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Jointly with Joseph L. Goldstein for their discoveries concerning the regulation of cholesterol metabolism.