Paying attention to our surroundings is an ability harnessed in the pathways of a key chemical made by our nervous system. Acetylcholine, which transmits signals across the junctions between nerves and muscles, also helps us respond to our environment with movement. First discovered a hundred years ago in a fungus by Sir Henry Hallett Dale – born on this day in 1875 – the chemical has since unwittingly yielded significant medical insight and benefit. Different levels of this neurotransmitter are now accepted to account for the memory deficits suffered by patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Dale won a joint Nobel Prize for his discovery in 1936. He pioneered the first Therapeutic Substances Act of 1925, a big step in making drug treatment a safe and viable pursuit.
Written by Brona McVittie
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