Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Another Noble Nobel Lecture

The last in the series, if I'm not mistaken.

This one takes place tomorrow, October 12 (Korea Time), at 2:00 p.m. in Inchon Memorial Hall on Korea University campus -- as have all of them. Dr. Peter C. Doherty, 1996 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

You may recall that he was co-winner with Rolf M. Zinkernagel, whose lecture I announced on July 12 and attended on July 16. In his original Nobel banquet speech, Zinkernagel had called out to Doherty:

"Peter, let us face it: We have been very lucky! Had we not found the rules of restricted immune T cell recognition, somebody else would have later."

I liked the humor and concision of this remark. It also marked out the area of their research: "the rules of restricted immune T cell recognition." Prior to Zinkernagel's lecture, I expected him to describe how he and Doherty had specified how "immunological memory" works, but from his lecture, I learned that he questions the concept's explanatory value and clarity.

Explanatory: If the organism survives an infection, it doesn't need immunological memory; if it doesn't survive, it also doesn't need such a memory.

Clarity: Does it refer to "a special quality of T or B cells" or to "a low-level antigen-driven response."

I'm no expert, but as Yogi Berra is said to have said, "You can take your Merriam-Webster or other, more technical reference works and find more information about it."

Actually, he just said, "You can look it up."

But he meant what I said.

Meanwhile, back with Doherty . . . his lecture promises to "discuss the nature of the specific, or adaptive, immune response that is stimulated by vaccination, and consider the overall effectiveness of vaccination strategies in different infectious disease processes" (from "Abstract of the Lecture"). He particularly concerns himself with viruses that are extremely effective in eluding or 'fooling' the immune system, viruses like the HIV strains or influenza strains like the one that got me last week and still lingers on . . . so, I'm interested.

For more on Doherty, see his Nobel Lecture or his autobiography -- or come to his Korea University talk tomorrow.


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