Niels K. Jerne


Niels K. Jerne

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Niels K. Jerne
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1984

Born: 23 December 1911, London, United Kingdom

Died: 7 October 1994, Castillon-du-Gard, France

Affiliation at the time of the award: Basel Institute for Immunology, Basel, Switzerland

Prize motivation: “for theories concerning the specificity in development and control of the immune system and the discovery of the principle for production of monoclonal antibodies”

Prize share: 1/3


The immune system includes cells, lymphocytes and antibodies that neutralize substances foreign to the body, or antigens. In 1955 Niels Jerne asserted that all kinds of antibodies already have developed during the fetus stage and that the immune system functions through selection. In 1971 he asserted that lymphocytes teach themselves to recognize the body’s own substances in the thymus gland. His 1974 network theory is based on the idea that antibodies not only attach themselves to an antigen, but also can become attached to other antibodies. An immunological reaction arises when an antigen disturbs the system’s equilibrium.

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