Professor Rolf M. ZINKERNAGEL
Born and raised in Basle, Rolf Zinkernagel
went through Medical School of the University of Basle,
got his MD degree in 1968 and wanted to become a surgeon.
After about 1 1/2 years he decided to look into immunological
research problems, went through the Postgraduate Course
in Experimental Medicine at the University of Zurich
and spent 2 1/2 years in the Institute of Biochemistry
of Lausanne working on immunity against infections.
From 1973-1975 he was a postdoc at the Australian national
University John Curtin School of Medical Research in
Canberra, Australia, where Peter Doherty and he made
seminal observations on how cytotoxic T cells recognize
virus infected cells in an infected host. Subsequently
at the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La
Jolla, California, and after 1980 at the University
of Zurich, he studied antiviral immune protection and
immuno-pathology caused by virus infections.
Besides his interests in solving uncertainties and
discrepancies in Immunology he tries to further biomedical
research and its application in Zurich, in Switzerland
and Europe. He has supported gene technology and animal
experimentation in various vocations in Switzerland
and Europe, and has helped to popularize science in
Professor Zinkernagel and Peter C. Doherty are the
winners of the Nobel Prize in physiology or Medicine
1996 for their discoveries concerning the specificity
of the cell mediated immune defense.
gThier findings had an immediate impact on immunological
research. The wide relevance of their observations concerning
the specificity of the T-lymphocytes became apparent
in many contexts, both in regard to the ability of the
immune system to recognize microorganisms other than
viruses, and in regard to the ability of the immune
system to react against certain kinds of self tissue.
To explain their findings, the two scientists subsequently
devised two models; one model was based on a single
recognition of 'altered self''(when the histocompatibility
antigen has been modified through association with a
virus), the other on a 'dual recognition' of both foreign
and self. Both the experimental findings and the theoretical
models became immensely important in later research.
Within a few years, it had been demonstrated that the
set of the T- lymphocytes that are allowed to mature
and survive in an individual is determined by the ability
of the cell to recognize the transplantation antigens
of the individual. Therefore, the principle of simultaneous
recognition is essential for the ability of the immune
system to distinguish between 'self' and 'non-self'.
Further molecular research has both confirmed Zinkernagel's
and Doherty's models and clarified the structural basis
of their discovery - that a small part (a peptide),
for example from a virus, is directly bound to a defined
variable part of the bodyLs own histocompatibility antigens,
and that this complex is what is recognized by the specific
recognition molecules of T- lymphocytes (T-cell receptors).
Taken in all, the clarification of the recognition mechanisms
of the T-cells within the cellular immune system has
fundamentally changed our understanding of the development
and normal function of the immune system and, in addition,
has also provided new possibilities for the selective
modification of immune reactions both to microorganisms,
and to self tissues.h
(Cited from http://nobelprize.org/medicine/laureates/1996/press.html)