Updated: 6 days ago
In memory of the Armenian Genocide that happened April 24th, I thought it was important to shed light on Armenian scientists and their contributions to STEM. Armenian peoples mustn’t be forgotten alongside their many accomplishments. In this blog, I want to put the spotlight on Roger Altounyan.
Roger Altouyan was born in Aleppo, Syria. However he and his four sister went to a british boarding school in England. He spent the holidays in his families home and during the summer in 1927, J. Arthur Ransome resided there and it inspired him to write the book Swallows and Amazons. Notably, the main character was named roger! He served as a pilot and won the AFC in 1945.
More on his medical career, he went to Emmanuel College in Cambridge and completed his clinical rotations in Middlesex Hospital
To begin his career in immunological research, he worked under Bengers Laboratories. Bengers wanted to find a way to relax the airway smooth muscle or the ASM. The treatment being experimented on was Khellin, a middle eastern herbal medicine used to treat congestion and most commonly used in Egpyt. Khellin, in its pure form, it comes out as a crystalline and needle like substance. However, the plant it comes from is called Ammi Visnaga. Roger himself had asthma and self-experimented with the Khellin, utilizing a trigger for his asthma which was a guinea pig hair. Although Khellin proved to be useful, Bengers instructed Roger to halt his research. However, this did not deter Roger and he continued his research in secret. This led to the discovery of cromolyn sodium, which had bronchodilating-like properties. When Bengers Laboratories was eventually taken over by Fisons, another pharmaceutical company, they wanted Roger to continue his research, and without having to conceal it this time! The way cromolyn sodium works is by acting as an inhibitor. When inhaled before exposal to stimuli, it has been shown to inhibit the development of an allergic bronchial reaction. Cromolyn Sodium is said to show the best results in people with exercised-induced asthma, or asthmatic reactions happening due to allergies, however can’t stop a sudden and potentially life threatening “acute” attack. Cromolyn works best taken before an attack, but hardly works if inhaled after or during a reaction. The way this drug works is as a mast cell stabilizer. A mast cell is a type of white blood cell that can be found in the connective tissue, and they play an important role in the immune system's response. When a mast cell comes in contact with an antigen, the cells release histamine as well as proteases that contribute to asthma symptoms. Mast cells are also known to release cytokines, which are signaling proteins that control inflammation levels, as well as lipid mediators. The release of such substances results in cell accumulation in the lungs, as well as smooth muscle contraction, elevated levels of mucus in the lungs, and disrupting of he airway barrier. Now, to get ASM to relax there needs to be a removal of the stimulus (allergies, exerting your lungs from exercise, histamine) or a substance that prevents the ASM to contract in the first place. Thankfully, cromolyn sodium can inhibit the mechanism that cause a reaction! Fisons then went on to the sell cromolyn sodium. It can be taken through an inhaler, a nasal spray, and has even been found to be good eye drops!
Imagine used is also from there