By clicking on the links below, you will discover who are the winners of the Nobel Prize in the field of Immunology and why theyr were awarded this Prize!
|Emile von Behring|
- Karl Landsteiner got the Nobel Prize in 1930 for the discovery of blood groups. It is only after Landsteiner's work that it became possible to make blood transfusions choosing the blood so that it is not destroyed by the recipient's immune system. This discovery fully belongs to immunology since the destruction of red blood cells from a donor by a receiver involves antibodies!
- Sir Franck McFarlane-Burnet and Peter Medawar had the Nobel Prize in 1960 for explaining how our immune system, when all goes well, learn to attack microbes while preserving our own body [phenomenon known as SELF (our body) / NON-SELF (microbes) discrimination]! It looks like philosophy! It is not so far and in fact this theory has its supporters and its detractors. Polly Matzinger, a famous immunologist has challenged this concept by proposing that the immune system is not meant to distinguish SELF from NON-SELF but rather to distinguing DANGER from ABSENCE OF DANGER. To illustrate the difference, Polly Matzinger asked the question: Why do pregnant female accept rather than reject the foetus? Do you still follow us?
|Sir Franck McFarlane-Burnet|
- Gerald Edelman and Rodney Porter had the Nobel Prize in 1972 for discovering the structure of the famous antibody molecules , true "fronds" (Y-shaped) of our immune system.
- Baruj Benacerraf, Jean Dausset (french citizen, born in Toulouse) and Georges Snell had the Nobel Prize in 1980 for the discovery of histocompatibility. There is a code present on the surface of our cells and specific to each of us, which defines our "immunological" identity. We understand better the importance of this code if you know that it is governing the acceptance (when the codes are compatible) or rejection (when they are incompatible) of transplants. This system also governs our detection of infected or cancerous cells by T lymphocytes This system is also well known as the "HLA" system.
- Niels Jerne, Georges Kohler and Cesar Milstein had the Nobel Prize in 1984 for the discovery of monoclonal antibodies. They found a way to produce large quantities of of ad hoc antibodies that can be used in research laboratory and in medicine.
- Rolf Zinkernagel and Peter Doherty had the Nobel Prize in 1996 for the discovery of MHC restriction. Behind this name hides the discovery of the complex mechanisms whereby "killer" cells of our immune system get rid of virus-infected cells. Surprisingly, this brings us to the discovery of the HLA system, as the same molecules that prevent us from receiving transplants also help us eliminate viruses!
- Ralph Steinman, Jules Hoffmann and Bruce Beutler had the Nobel Prize in 2011 for the discovery of "receptors" for microbes found on our cells as well as for the discovery of the dendritic cells, so important for our immune system.
You might be surprised not to read the name of Louis Pasteur. In spite of his major contribution to the concept of vaccination, Louis Pasteur was never awarded the Nobel Prize (it is a matter of fact that many prestigious researchers did not receive the Nobel Prize for their work).
For this page, external links are from the Nobel Prize organization.