Nils-Åke Hillarp

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Nils-Åke Hillarp
Born (1916-07-04)4 July 1916
Died 17 March 1965(1965-03-17) (aged 48)
Nationality Swedish
Occupation scientist

Nils-Åke Hillarp (4 July 1916 – 17 March 1965) was a Swedish scientist and a prominent force in research on the brain's monoamines.


Hillarp was the son of merchant Nils Bengtsson and Hulda, former Johansson, and the brother of Rut Hillarp, a novelist. He became Doctor of Medical Science (equivalent to a Ph.D.) in 1946.[1] He was appointed assistant and later associate professor of Histology at the University of Lund (1946–1962). The Swedish Medical Research Council enabled him to spend 1960 to 1962 in research at the Department of Pharmacology, University of Gothenburg,[1] then in 1962 he became full professor of Histology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden where he remained until his death in 1965.[2]


Hillarp's research on the terminal fiber system of the autonomic nervous system was of significant importance, as was his work on the mechanics of nerve impulse transmission. Perhaps his most important research was with Bengt Falck, as they together developed the widely known Falck-Hillarp fluorescence method.[3] This method made it possible to transform certain monoamines, specifically serotonin (5-hydroxitryptamine) and the three cathecolamines dopamine, noradrenaline, adrenaline to fluorescent substances that could be detected on the cellular level by fluorescence microscopy.[4] By this method Hillarp and Falck could demonstrate the presence of these monoamines in the central as well as the peripheral nervous system with great precision and susceptibility. This became the first, and also the conclusive, evidence of the function of monoamines as interneuronal signal substances (transmitters).[5] Accordingly, it was not Arvid Carlsson who had discovered that dopamine is a signal substance in the central nervous system, as stated by the Nobel Committee at the Karolinska Institute in a press release in 2000. They had based their opinion on reports published by Carlsson and co-workers in 1957–1958. However, Carlsson, Falck and Hillarp published a study in 1962, which was based on the Falck-Hillarp fluorescence method on the cellular location of noradrenaline and dopamine in the brain, showing that noradrenaline is located in nerve cells (neurons) and functions as a transmitter. However, they could not ultimately define the cell type that harbors dopamine and were thus not able to state with certainty that dopamine is a transmitter. Obviously, if Carlsson had discovered this in 1957–1958, it would have been referred to and extensively discussed in the Carlsson-Falck-Hillarp publication in 1962. Both Hillarp, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Falck, at the Medical Faculty, University of Lund, had several research assistants, who studied various aspects of transmitters, using the Falck-Hillarp fluorescence method,and it was not long before these two groups had established that dopamine is, indeed, a transmitter.

Hillarp and Falck's work was completed in 1961, published in 1962 and was trailblazing in its field.[6] One of the publications was cited in more than 2435 publications[7] and became a part of The 200 Most-Cited Papers of All Time, SCI 1945–1988, see references nr 7. Many accomplished researchers, were tutored by Hillarp, including Annica Dahlström, Nobel prize winner Arvid Carlsson, Kjell Fuxe, Lars Olsson and Tomas Hökfelt.[2][5] The 50-year anniversary of the introduction of the Falck-Hillarp method was celebrated by a symposium in Lund on April 27, 2012 entitled "From Nerves to Pills".

Death and legacy

Hillarp died from aggressive malign melanoma, 49 years old.

The Hillarp lecture hall at the Karolinska instutet is named after him,[8] and he has been described as "a person who would change neuroscience in Sweden, in fact worldwide, perhaps more than any other Swedish scientist."[2]


His publications include:[9]

  • Gösta Glimstedt; Nils-Åke Hillarp (1942), Über die Innervationsgebiete des Sympathikus und des Parasympathikus bei der Glandula Submandibularis, Zugleich ein beitrag zur frage nach der Gültigkeit der Neuronenlehre für das Autonome Nervensystem, (in German), Lund, G.W.K. Gleerup; Leipzig, O. Harrassowitz 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp; Dora Jacobsohn (1943), Über die Innervation der Adenohypohyse und ihre Beziehungen zur Gonadotropen Hypophysen, (in German), Lund, G.W.K. Gleerup; Leipzig, O. Harrassowitz 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp; Christina Hedström (1946), Structure of the synapse and the peripheral innervation apparatus of the autonomic nervous system (in German), Basel New York Karger 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp; Hans Olivecrona (1946–1947), "Structural Proteins And Oriented Lipoids In The Cytoplasm Of Secreting And Resorbing Epithelial Cells", Cells Tissues Organs, 2 (2): 119–141, doi:10.1159/000140202 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp; Hans Olivecrona (1946–1947), "The Rôle Played By The Axon And The Schwann Cells In The Degree Of Myelination Of The Peripheral Nerve Fibre", Cells Tissues Organs, 2 (1): 17–32, doi:10.1159/000140193 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp (1947), "Innervation Of The Adrenal Medulla In The Rat", Cells Tissues Organs, 3 (2): 153–161, doi:10.1159/000140241 
  • Lennart Claesson; Nils-Åke Hillarp (1947), "Critical Remarks On The Histochemical Reactions For Ketosteroids", Cells Tissues Organs, 3 (2): 109–114, doi:10.1159/000140239 
  • Lennart Claesson; Nils-Åke Hillarp (1948), "Sterol Content Of The Interstitial Gland And Corpora Lutea Of The Rat, Guinea-Pig And Rabbit Ovary During Pregnancy, Parturition And Lactation", Cells Tissues Organs, 5 (4): 301–305, doi:10.1159/000140334 
  • Hans Olivecrona; Nils-Åke Hillarp (1949), "Studies On The Submicroscopical Structure Of The Epithelial Cells Of The Intestine, Pancreas And Kidney In Rats During Histogenesis", Cells Tissues Organs, 8 (3): 281–285, doi:10.1159/000140415 
  • Lennart Claesson; Nils-Åke Hillarp (1954), Effect of N-methylethylphenylbarbituric acid (Prominal) on the cholesterol content in the ovarian interstitial gland of the rat. The effect of colchicine on the increase in ovarian weight and phospholipids at gonadotrophic stimulation. Quantitative relationship between gonadotrophic stimulation and lipid changes in the interstitial gland of the rabbit ovary. The intracellular localization of the esterified cholesterol in the living interstitial gland cell of the rabbit ovary, Lund 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp; Bernt Hökfelt; Bodil Nilson (1954), "The Cytology Of The Adrenal Medullary Cells With Special Reference To The Storage And Secretion Of The Sympathomimetic Amines", Cells Tissues Organs, 21 (2): 155–167, doi:10.1159/000140926 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp; Bodil Nilson (1954), The intracellular localization of the catechol amines of the suprarenal medulla (in German), Lund Gleerupska Univ.-Bokh. 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp (1959), The construction and functional organization of the autonomic innervation apparatus (in German), Lund Acta physiologica Scandinavica 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp (1959), "On The Histochemical Demonstration Of Adrenergic Nerves With The Osmic Acid-Sodium Iodide Technique", Cells Tissues Organs, 38 (4): 379–384, doi:10.1159/000141541 
  • Bengt Falck; Nils-Åke Hillarp (1959), "On The Cellular Localization Of Catechol Amines In The Brain", Cells Tissues Organs, 38 (3): 277–279, doi:10.1159/000141530 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp (September 1960), "Different Pools of Catecholamines Stored in the Adrenal Medulla", Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 50 (1): 8–22, doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.1960.tb02068.x 
  • ÅKe Bertler; Nils-Åke Hillarp; Evald Rosengren (September 1960), "Intracellular Localization of Dopamine in Cow Intestine", Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 50 (1): 84–87, doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.1960.tb02076.x 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp (December 1960), "Effect of Reserpine on the Adrenal Medulla of Sheep", Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 49 (4): 376–382, doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.1960.tb01960.x 
  • Gösta Hall; Nils-Åke Hillarp; Georg Thieme (May 1961), "Phenylalanine and Tyrosine in the Adrenal Medulla", Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 52 (1): 49–52, doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.1961.tb02199.x 
  • ÅKe Bertler; Nils-Åke Hillarp; Evald Rosengren (May 1961), "Effect of Reserpine on the Storage of New-formed Catecholamines in the Adrenal Medulla", Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 52 (1): 44–48, doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.1961.tb02198.x 
  • ÅKe Bertler; Gösta Hall; Nils-Åke Hillarp; Evald Rosengren (June 1961), "Uptake of Dopamine by the Storage Granules of the Adrenal Medulla in Vitro", Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 52 (2): 167–170, doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.1961.tb02213.x 
  • Arvid Carlsson; Bengt Falck; Nils-Åke Hillarp (1962), Cellular localization of brain monoamines (in Swedish), Lund: (tr. : Berlingska Boktryckeriet) 
  • Arvid Carlsson; Nils-Åke Hillarp (May 1962), "Formation of Phenolic Acids in Brain after Administration of 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylalanine", Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 55 (1): 95–100, doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.1962.tb02422.x 
  • Arvid Carlsson; Nils-Åke Hillarp; Bertil Waldeck (1963), Analysis of the Mg++ ATP dependent storage mechanism in the amine granules of the adrenal medulla, Göteborg: Elanders Doctryckeri Aktiebolag 
  • Kjell Fuxe; Nils-Åke Hillarp (1964), "Uptake of L-dopa and noradrenaline by central catecholamine neurons", Life Sciences, 3 (12): 1403–1406, doi:10.1016/0024-3205(64)90081-5 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp; Torbjörn Malmfors (1964), "Reserpine and cocaine blocking of the uptake and storage mechanisms in adrenergic nerves", Life Sciences, 3 (7): 703–708, doi:10.1016/0024-3205(64)90021-9 
  • Nils-Erik Andén; Arvid Carlsson; Nils-Åke Hillarp; Tor Magnusson (1964), "5-Hydroxytryptamine release by nerve stimulation of the spinal cord", Life Sciences, 3 (5): 473–478, doi:10.1016/0024-3205(64)90208-5 
  • Nils-Erik Andén; Arvid Carlsson; Nils-Åke Hillarp; Tor Magnusson (1965), "Noradrenaline release by nerve stimulation of the spinal cord", Life Sciences, 4 (2): 129–132, doi:10.1016/0024-3205(65)90110-4 
  • Arvid Carlsson; Annica Dahlström; Kjell Fuxe; Nils-åke Hillarp (April 1965), "Failure of Reserpine to Deplete Noradrenaline Neurons of α-Methylnoradrenaline Formed from α-Methyl DOPA", Acta Pharmacologica et Toxicologica, 22 (3): 270–276, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0773.1965.tb01822.x 
  • Annica Dahlström; Kjell Fuxe; Nils-åke Hillarp (April 1965), "Site of Action of Reserpine", Acta Pharmacologica et Toxicologica, 22 (3): 277–292, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0773.1965.tb01823.x 
  • Annica Dahlström; Kjell Fuxe; Nils-Åke Hillarp; Torbjörn Malmfors, Adrenergic Mechanisms in the Pupillary Light-Reflex Path 
  • Arvid Carlsson; Bengt Falck; Nils-Åke Hillarp; Ale Torp, Histochemical Localization at the Cellular Level of Hypothalamic Noradrenaline 
  • Erik Ask-Upmark; Nils-Åke Hillarp, The Fibre Size In The Carotid Sinus Nerve Of The Cat 
  • Nils-Åke Hillarp, Further Observations on the State of the Catechol Amines Stored in the Adrenal Medullary Granules 
  • Bertil Aldman; Lennart Claesson; Nils-Åke Hillarp; Erik Odeblad, Studies On The Storage Of The Oestrogen-Precursor In The Interstitial Gland Of The Ovary Of Rats Treated With Oestradiol Benzoate And Progesterone 
  • Nils Åke Hillarp; Bodil Nilson, The structure of the adrenaline and noradrenaline containing granules in the adrenal medullary cells with reference to the storage and release of the sympathomimetic amines, Lund 
  • Hans Olivecrona; Bertil Löfström; Nils-Åke Hillarp, Studies On The Submicroscopical Structure Of The Nerve Fibre 


  1. 1.0 1.1 "NILS-ÅKE HILLARP". Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Académie des sciences (5 February 2008). "Discours de Tomas Hökfelt, lauréat de la Grande Médaille" (PDF). Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  3. Luba Vikhanski (8 October 2001). In Search of the Lost Cord: Solving the Mystery of Spinal Cord Regeneration. Joseph Henry Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-309-17084-0. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  4. Jill Lynn Silverman (2007). Involvement of Regulator of G-protein Signaling 9-2 in Estrogenic Augmentation of Reward Behavior. ProQuest. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-549-58764-4. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "A Tribute to Nils-Åke Hillarp and His Students" (PDF). December 3–5, 2008. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  6. Falck B, Hillarp N, Thieme G, Torp A (1962). "Fluorescence of catechol amines and related compounds condensed with formaldehyde" (PDF). J. Histochem. Cytochem. 10 (3): 348–54, 1962. doi:10.1177/10.3.348. Retrieved 8 July 2013.  Vancouver style error: initials (help)
  7. "This Week's Citation Classic" (PDF). 2 December 1991. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  8. "Karolinska institutet 200 years anniversary" (PDF). 24 August 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  9. "Search Results". WorldCat. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 

External links