Jacques Maclouf, Scientist and Athlete, Dead at 48
Jacques Maclouf died shortly after suffering a stroke while viewing the Bastille Day parade in Paris with his family. He was 48. He was born in Limoges, the son of a pharmacist, in 1949. He took an undergraduate degree in pharmacy from the University of Limoges and practiced briefly. He then trained in the Institute Pasteur, receiving a PhD in pharmacological sciences from the University of Paris in 1977. He entered the Centre National pour la Recherch Scientifique (CNRS) in 1979 and became “Directuer de Recherches.”
Maclouf’s work focused on the role of mediators formed from arachidonic acid in the regulation of blood clotting and vascular reactivity. He demonstrated that distinct blood cells could interact to participate in the stepwise formation of novel lipids, which could then influence the function of these cells (red and white blood cells and platelets) and their interaction with the blood-vessel wall. He was also among the first to demonstrate the importance of metabolism of arachidonic acid in the blood-vessel wall by the “new” cyclooxygenase enzyme COX-2. Aspirin acts to prevent blood clotting by inhibiting COX-1 in platelets but is relatively ineffective against COX-2 in the blood-vessel wall. It is thought that this may explain why some patients develop heart attacks and stroke despite taking aspirin. Recently, Maclouf had been working on a new class of mediators formed from arachidonic acid, the isoprostanes. He had shown that these compounds might contribute to instability in the plaques that form in blood vessels of patients with atherosclerosis. Fracture of these plaques results in activation of the clotting system, leading to vascular occlusion in heart attack and stroke.
Maclouf served on review groups for the INSERM and received the Prix Henri Mondor of the French Academy of Sciences in 1987. In addition to the fundamental contributions Maclouf made to the understanding of the mechanisms of cardiovascular disease, which were published in the most critically reviewed journals (such as Nature, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Circulation, and Blood), his laboratory was a generous source of reagents for other scientists in the field. These were shared with friends and competitors alike in a way that fostered progress more efficiently than would have been possible by the work of any single investigator, no matter how gifted. At the time of his death, Jacques Maclouf directed a busy laboratory as a senior scientist in the INSERM Unit 348 based at the Hopital Lariboisiere in Paris.
In an era in which the demands of international science sometimes suggest that progress is dependent on unseemly interpersonal rivalry and the demands of the unrequited ego, Jacques Maclouf lived for the rewards of his interpersonal relationships, which, in turn, fostered his productivity and contributed so much to his colleagues. He spent sabbatical periods with Bengt Samuelsson at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and with Pierre Borgeat at the University of Quebec, Canada. His ties with the United States were multiple, and his affection for this country was profound. He spent a sabbatical year in the Mass Spectrometry Laboratory of Robert Murphy at the University of Colorado in 1987 and returned every summer thereafter to continue his work and to renew the ties of his family with the West. Additionally, he developed enduring scientific and personal bonds with investigators at the Universities of Utah and Pennsylvania and the Upjohn Company, in particular.
It is always a jolt when a friend is cut down in the prime of life. However, the fates seemed especially cruel in the case of Jacques Maclouf. Accomplished in science, he was an avid sportsman of boundless energy and enthusiasm. He had run more than 10 marathons: Paris, as recently as 3 months ago, Philadelphia, and, repeatedly, New York. Maclouf père had spent formative years in Brooklyn, NY. Jacques fulfilled both his filial and paternal duties each November by shepherding his sprightly nonagenarian parents on their annual return visits, together with guiding his 2 young sons on their early explorations of Manhattan as an addendum to the road race. Whereas most collapse in a weary heap after the run, Jacques would be guiding the extended family toward JFK Airport for the flight home before three quarters of the field had crossed the finish line. He had climbed Mont Blanc and was an avid skier. He reveled in the achievements of France in rugby and, of course, just before his tragic death, in the World Cup.
Despite these attainments, the memory of Jacques that remains with most of us is of a firm friend, a warm and loving husband and father, and a cultured and educated gentleman. Both he and his wife, Nicole, a distinguished microbiologist at the Institute Pasteur, balanced formidable international careers in science with their first priority, their children. It was a particular recent pleasure for Jacques when Beatrice, his eldest daughter, obtained her baccalaureate and entry to law school in the fall.
Jacques Maclouf will be remembered by his many friends and admirers in science throughout the world. However, he will be most fondly missed by Nicole and his children, Beatrice, Antoine, and Guillaume, all of Paris.
When the judges come together, and the mother of destinies, together they decree the fates of men. Life and death they allot, but the day of death they do not disclose. —The Book of Gilgamesh
- Copyright © 1998 by American Heart Association