Endocrinologist Michel Chrétien has stimulated a cascade of important discoveries in the synthesis, processing and biological action of hormones. All stem from his early discovery that the body processes large, inactive protein precursors in different ways to give rise to several active hormones, including one of the brain’s natural painkillers, b-endorphin.
Michel identified the enzymes that cut hormone precursors into their active derivatives, cloned the genes that produce them, and demonstrated their extensive roles in health and disease. His studies of individuals with mutations in the gene for one such enzyme, who have very low blood cholesterol, have suggested new therapies for the prevention of heart disease.
Michel’s influence in his native Canada and beyond has led to new avenues of research in diseases including malaria and diabetes. In 1986, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 2011, an Officer of the French Légion d'honneur.