The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1980
Born: 19 October 1916, Toulouse, France
Died: 6 June 2009, Palma, Majorca, Spain
Affiliation at the time of the award: Université de Paris, Laboratoire Immuno-Hématologie, Paris, France
Prize motivation: “for their discoveries concerning genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immunological reactions”
Prize share: 1/3
Our immune system rejects damaged or abnormal cells, allowing our bodies to function properly. During transplants, this can also happen to the foreign cells. After George Snell had shown how this happens with mice, during the 1950s Jean Dausset showed that rejection of foreign cells function in a similar way for humans. The body’s cells sense their surroundings through molecular complexes on the surface of the cells. These molecular complexes are governed by a certain group of genes on a certain chromosome. Among other things, this knowledge proved significant for transplants.