Dr Ralph Steinman, father of dendritic cells and first posthumous nobel prize winner since 1961
October 4, 2011 6:35 AM Subscribe
posted by kisch mokusch (25 comments total)
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In 1973, while working as a young post-doc in Zanvil A. Cohn's laboratory in Rockefeller University, Ralph Steinman
described a completely new immune cell within the lymphoid organs of mice (original paper can be read here
). Based on it's distinctive shape, with it's many branched projections, he named the cell "dendritic cell
" (derived from the Greek word for "tree").
Such began a prolific
career, devoted to the further understanding of these cells, which transformed the way the world understood how the immune system worked. Yesterday, Dr Steinman was awarded the The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2011
"for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity
". Tragically, he had died just three days earlier of pancreatic cancer
, and never learned that he was to be awarded science’s top honour.
In a remarkable move by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which does not normally grant awards to people who have died, Canadian-born Steinman will posthumously receive half of the $1.5-million award, since the committee was unaware that he had died and that the announcement was made "in good faith".
Ralph Steinman is widely acknowledged within the scientific community as the "Father of dendritic cells". Much of his career was devoted to proving that these cells provided the "missing link" that enabled white blood cells to attack infection and disease with precision. His seminal review on the topic
, published in 1998 with Jacques Banchereau
, currently has 9368 citations (most scientist thing they're rockstars if they get over 100). His work, along with the work of others (many of whom began as his students), paved the way for dendritic cell immunotherapy
as a treatment for cancer, which Steinman had himself been using to combat his illness for the past 5 years