Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine for 2011

The Nobel Prize in Medicine for 2011 was awarded three scientists who have worked with the innate immune system; Bruce A. Beutler, Jules A. Hoffman, and Ralph M. Steinman. Biotec Pharmacon congratulates the prize winners thanking for their important contribution to our understanding of both the adaptive and especially the innate immune system, which is the core area of Biotec’s operations.

Hoffmann and Beutler were awarded for their discoveries concerning the characterization of the innate immune system. They share the prize with late Ralph Steinman who was awarded for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in the adaptive immune system.

Hoffmann Beutler Steinman

Source: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2011/#

Higher animal species — including humans — have two immune systems, the innate and the adaptive. Lower animal species – from worms to more advanced invertebrates as the sea urchin, squid, crabs, and insects – have only the innate.

Jules A. Hoffman and Bruce A. Beutler have worked with specific molecular mechanisms that enable the innate immune system to detect foreign substances, such as microbes. Ralph M. Steinman discovered a special variant of the tissue macrophage – the dendritic cell – that presents foreign substances for cells of the adaptive immune system and induces immune responses such as production of antibodies.

Contrary to what most people think- including the majority of researchers –the innate system is the organism’s fundamental defense against infections and damages in all animal species. The innate system responds immediately mobilizing white blood cells and chemical substances from the blood and tissue fluids. The tissue macrophage is the central cell in this work, monitoring every millimeter of the body’s tissue with its finger on the trigger. The research from the 1970s onwards, including Biotec Pharmacon’s own research, has shown that macrophages are absolutely essential for the body’s reaction against infections and cancer, and that this reaction is enhanced when macrophages are stimulated by specific substances. This is in particular true for Beta-Glucans, which today is relevant as means against infections, healing gel for complex wounds such as diabetic ulcers, and as enhancement of antibody treatment of cancer. The adaptive portion – the antibody – may be compared with a target seeking missile. The innate mechanisms represent the explosives.

The adaptive system is slower, and only effective when it has built its memory. The adaptive immune system is therefore first and foremost important in cases of repeated or long-term infections, and because of the sluggishness, secondary complex repercussions may lead to chronic disease.

The innate immune system (see article at Biotec Pharmacon) was discovered in the 19th century by another Nobel Laureate, Elie Metchnikoff. He was almost forgotten as the adaptive immune system was discovered around the turn of the century. Antibodies and vaccines were eventually seen as the only significant factors in the body’s defense against infections, injuries and cancer. In the 1960s the studies of the innate immune system were brought up again, first in the form of phagocytosis or absorption of particles such as bacteria -in macrophages. At the end of the 1960s Anthony Allison found that macrophages also were small chemical factories that transmitted enzymes into the tissue, and today we are aware of approximately 100 substances that participate in the immune system. Ross and Leibovits showed that the marcophages enhance healing of ulcers, and Rosenthal and Schevach found that macrophages were required to present antigens and accordingly the initiation of adaptive reactions such as production of antibodies.

The dendritic cell, which earlier was known as the “Steinman cell”, discovered in the early 1970s, is particularly effective in this work of presenting so called antigens. Biotec Pharmacon hopes that the award of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine will signal the beginning of a new exciting era within immunology, where the role of and thus possibilities of innate immune functions are fully investigated. For example, why do the lower animal species such as the invertebrates – which represents more than 98% of all animal species – fight infections even better than us, without the antibodies, lymphocytes or vaccines?

For a simple, fun and instructive review of the immune system, we recommend the home pages of Nobel Committee: http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/medicine/immuneresponses/, Once again we send our congratulations to the Nobel Prize winners.

The Nobel Prize in Medicine for 2011 was awarded three scientists who have worked with the innate immune system; Bruce A. Beutler, Jules A. Hoffman, and Ralph M. Steinman. Biotec Pharmacon congratulates the prize winners thanking for their important contribution to our understanding of both the adaptive and especially the innate immune system, which is the core area of Biotec’s operations.

Hoffmann and Beutler were awarded for their discoveries concerning the characterization of the innate immune system. They share the prize with late Ralph Steinman who was awarded for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in the adaptive immune system.