When you cut your finger, the injured cells release chemicals called prostaglandins, sending a message through the nerves of your body to your brain. That message, known as “pain,” can be blocked using non-aspirin painkillers.
In the early 1900s, however, these drugs had unpleasant side effects, often causing a disorder called methemoglobinemia that generates red blood cell proteins incapable of carrying oxygen to body tissues.
In 1948, Bernard Brodie and his student, Julius Axelrod, linked the painkiller acetanilide to the condition and advocated for the use of acetaminophen instead. Several years later, the drug went on sale as “Tylenol.”
Throughout his career, the so-called father of modern pharmacology remained dedicated to investigating how the body – and chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine – interact with medicine to treat conditions. Notably, Brodie investigated the way certain drugs are metabolized differently in different people, necessitating the need for dosage based on blood composition.