George D. Snell
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1980
Born: 19 December 1903, Bradford, MA, USA
Died: 6 June 1996, Bar Harbor, ME, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME, USA
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. Through studies of mice with a very similar genetic make-up, George Snell showed that these rejections are caused by molecular complexes on the surface of the cells. In 1951 he also showed that rejection is governed by a group of genes on a special place on a certain chromosome. Among other things, the results proved significant for transplants.