Medical researchers recognized for work on innate, adaptive defenses
Three scientists who deciphered key aspects of the body’s defense against infection have won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Bruce Beutler of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and Jules Hoffmann of the Molecular and Cellular Biology Institute in Strasbourg, France, will share half of the $1.5 million award for discovering the role of toll-like receptor proteins in immune reactions. Beutler and Hoffmann concentrated on innate immunity, a primitive branch of the body’s defense system.
The other half of the prize goes to the late Ralph Steinman of Rockefeller University in New York City for his discovery of immune sensors called dendritic cells, which bring pathogens to the attention of immune enforcers called T cells. His findings established dendritic cells as a link between innate and adaptive immunity, in which the body develops a memory specific to a given pathogen.
Steinman died on September 30. No