Re- Greatest immunological

Fri Oct 28 04:19:21 EST 1994

                      Re: Greatest immunological discovery
I feel it is a bit of a red herring to talk in terms of a single 'greatest
discovery'.  The two so far mentioned (the two signal model of lymphocyte
activation and monoclonal antibodies) are undoubtedly major and each may be
seen as a decisive moment in the direction and understanding of modern
immunology.  But what of Susumu Tonegawa's demonstration of immunoglobulin-gene
recombination?  Breaking the paradigm of one-gene-one-protein was significant
for all biologists.  Most significantly, it was a quantum leap for immunology,
laying the empirical foundation for molecular proof of the theory of clonal
selection (itself a major theoretical leap by Ehrlich, then Macfarlane-Burnet)
and opened the door for all subsequent work on the genetic structure of
antibodies and T-cell receptors.

This is but a single prominent example of a 'great discovery', as are the two
others mentioned above.  The key point is that they do not exist in isolation
but inform each other, ultimately helping both to create and draw upon a
conceptual framework which lies at the heart of modern immunological research. 
 Other 'great discoveries' may be seen within this context and discoveries yet
to be made will rely upon this foundation.  However, to suggest that there is
more than one key moment is not to diminish the importance of each.  The more
beacons we have to guide us, the clearer the road ahead.

Rob Brines

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