Turning car exhaust fumes into a magic pill for flagging sex lives has earned three U.S. scientists a Nobel Prize. Robert Furchgott, Ferid Murad and Louis Ignarro were awarded the Physiology and Medicine prize on Monday for their discovery of the Viagra principle that nitric oxide, found in car exhausts and other air pollutants, functions as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system.
"Just when the scientific community thought it knew all the substances that could have an impact on the human body, these guys shocked everyone by showing that a really simple molecule that we regarded simply as an air pollutant had a wide range of positive biological effects," says TIME medical correspondent Christine Gorman. "By exploring the counterintuitive idea that the body would use something we regard as a pollutant and opened up a whole new part of medicine, which has produced not only Viagra, but also potentially has important consequences for fighting everything from cancer to migraines." A shot in the arm for the scientists who who've done the same for so many others.