Toshio Narahashi, a founding father of ion channel physiology and pharmacology and a leader in cellular neuropharmacology, died at his Chicago home on April 21, 2013, of complications associated with colon cancer. He was 86. Over his 50 year career, Narahashi received many societal awards including the 1981 Kenneth S. Cole Award from the Biophysical Society.

Narahashi received his DVM equivalent and a PhD in Neurotoxicology from the University of Tokyo. He attained international prominence in 1964 when he made the pivotal discovery that tetrodotoxin, the pufferfish toxin, acted specifically on voltage-gated sodium channels to block nerve conduction. Narahashi also described in detail ion channel modulation by other toxins including batrachatoxin, grayanotoxin, and sea anemone toxins. In addition, Narahashi made seminal contributions to our understanding of the role ion channels play in therapeutics. His work with the isolated squid axon demonstrated that local anesthetics act from the inside of the axon after first gaining intraneuronal access in the uncharged form.

While his work with biological toxins earned him world renown, his research with insecticide neurotoxicity has had an equal or greater societal impact. Narahashi’s work with insecticides was pivotal to identifying the ion channel basis of insecticidal action of DDT, pyrethroids, dieldren.

Narahashi held faculty positions at Duke University, rising to Vice Chairman of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology before moving to Northwestern University Medical School as Chair of Pharmacology in 1977, where he remained until his death.

During his scientific career, Narahashi trained an estimated 140 graduate students and other professionals. He published 324 papers and 148 chapters and reviews, and edited 11 books. Narahashi maintained an active teaching profile during his time as department chair. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Kyoko; a son, Taro; a daughter, Keiko; two grandchildren; five brothers and one sister.

August 2013 Table of Contents