Immunology sweeps Nobel Medicine Prize | Bangkok Post: learning

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Immunology sweeps Nobel Medicine Prize

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Medicine is only half the story in fighting disease; under our skin the immune system waits like a huge army ready to fight invaders. 

dendritic cell

Section of the skin showing large numbers of dendritic (Langerhans) cells in the epidermis layer of the skin (Source: Wikipedia). Ralph Steinman, one of three Nobel Prize recipients, was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery of dendritic cells.

For a complete medical school course on immunology and microbiology see University of South Carolina's website: MP3 lectures (can listen to on most mobile phones) and free online textbook.

Click button to listen to Immunology Nobel Prize to download

Trio wins Nobel Medicine Prize for immune system research by Nina Larson (AFP)

STOCKHOLM — Three scientists won the Nobel Medicine Prize Monday for work on the immune system, but in a surprising twist the jury learned that one of the winners of the award had died just days before.

The new laureates were Bruce Beutler of the United States, Luxembourg-born Frenchman Jules Hoffmann, and Ralph Steinman of Canada, who it was discovered Monday had died on September 30.

"This year's Nobel laureates have revolutionised our understanding of the immune system by discovering key principles for its activation," the jury said in a statement.

The three were lauded for their work on the body's complex defence system in which signalling molecules unleash antibodies and killer cells to respond to invading microbes.

Understanding this throws open the door to new drugs and also tackling immune disorders, such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, in which the body mysteriously attacks itself. 

Their work has opened up new avenues for the development of prevention and therapy against infections, cancer and inflammatory diseases," the jury said.

The Nobel jury was caught off guard though when it discovered hours after announcing the prize that Steinman had died of pancreatic cancer on Friday the age of 68.

Prize regulations stipulate the award cannot be given posthumously.

The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute that awards the prize was meeting late Monday to discuss how to handle the situation.

Annika Pontikis, spokeswoman of the Nobel Foundation, could not confirm to AFP if this was the first time such a situation had arisen, but said it was "very unlikely" it had occurred before.

Earlier, the head of the Nobel Assembly, Goeran Hansson, insisted the committee would stand by its choice.

We just got the information. What we can do now is only to regret that he could not experience the joy," Hansson told Swedish news agency TT, adding: "We don't name new winners, that was our decision."

"How it will be done in practice to hand out the prize is what we will have to investigate," he said, adding that they were "examining the rules."

"Rockefeller University in New York, where Steinman worked, was the first to announce his death, saying it was thrilled at his Nobel win, but "the news is bittersweet, as we also learned this morning from Ralph's family that he passed a few days ago after a long battle with cancer.

The Nobel jury hailed the three winners as having done more than anyone to lay bare the two-tier structure of the immune system.

Beutler, 53, and Hoffmann, 70, who just a few days ago received a joint Shaw prize in Hong Kong, were meanwhile set to share one half of the 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.48 million, 1.08 million euros) Nobel prize.

They separately identified receptor proteins that trigger the molecular cascade which is the innate immune system.

This defence is a generalised call to arms, mustering platoons of immune cells to initiate inflammation, a chemical process that seeks to establish a physical barrier against penetration beyond the microbe's entry point.

Hoffmann's win was hailed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who described it as "an honour" for all of France.

The laureate himself however downplayed his achievement, saying he was thinking about all the people who worked with him, and that the prize had not gone to him alone but to "the work of these three groups which have allowed us to have a better understanding of innate immunology."

Steinman won the other half of the prize for work on the second, slower line of defence, known as the adaptive response.

In 1973, he discovered a new type of cell, the dendritic cell, and demonstrated its role in unleashing T cells -- the "heavy artillery" of the immune system.

T cells are part of an immunological memory, enabling a faster and powerful mobilisation of defences the next time the same microorganism attacks.

Steinman, who also won the 2007 Lasker Prize for his work, showed that the body's immune system was able to attack harmful microorganisms while staying clear of the body's own molecules.

(Source: AFP, Trio wins Nobel Medicine Prize for immune system research by Nina Larson (AFP) , link)

Immunology Vocabulary

immune system - a system of biological structures and processes inside the body that protects against disease by identifying and killing disease causing things such as bacteria, viruses and parasitic worms (pathogens) ( See Wikipedia and immunity)

revolutionised our understanding of the immune system - helped us to understand the immune in a completely new way (showing how it really works)

immunology - a branch of biology and medical science that covers the study of all aspects of the immune system in all living things, "deals with the physiological functioning of the immune system in states of both health and diseases; malfunctions of the immune system in immunological disorders (autoimmune diseases, hypersensitivities, immune deficiency, transplant rejection); the physical, chemical and physiological characteristics of the components of the immune system" (See Wikipedia and the best educational website at University of South Carolina Medical School)

innate immune system - (See Wikipedia)
adaptive immune system  
- functions include: 1. the generation of responses to eliminate pathogens or pathogen infected cells, 2. the development of immunological memory called upon to quickly eliminate a pathogen should subsequent infections occur, 3. recognising the difference between "self" and “non-self” antigens so the immune does not attack itself (See Wikipedia)
adaptive response

memory - "when B cells and T cells are activated and begin to replicate, some of their offspring will become long-lived memory cells. Throughout the lifetime of an animal, these memory cells will remember each specific pathogen encountered and can mount a strong response if the pathogen is detected again" (See Wikipedia)
memory - something that you remember from the past; the ability to remember information, experiences and people ความจำ

the two-tier structure of the immune system - 1. the innate immune system, 2. the adaptive immune system
lay bare - to show or reveal the way something works inside (internal workings)
lay bare the two-tier structure of the immune system - to show how the two layers of the immune system work

immune cells -
also known as "leukocytes" or "white blood cells", "cells of the immune system involved in defending the body against both infectious disease and foreign materials. Five different and diverse types of leukocytes exist, but they are all produced and derived from a multipotent cell in the bone marrow known as a hematopoietic stem cell. They live for about 3 to 4 days in the average human body. Leukocytes are found throughout the body, including the blood and lymphatic system. The number of WBCs in the blood is often an indicator of disease. There are normally between 4×109 and 1.1×1010 white blood cells in a litre of blood, and ranging from 7 and 21 microns in diameter, they make up approximately 1% of blood in a healthy adult"  (See Wikipedia)

antigen - "a substance or molecule that, when introduced into the body, triggers the production of an antibody by the immune system, which will then kill or neutralize the antigen that is recognized as a foreign and potentially harmful invader. These invaders can be molecules such as pollen or cells such as bacteria" (See Wikipedia)

dendritic cell - "immune cells that process antigen material and present it on the surface to other cells of the immune system. "That is, they function as antigen-presenting cells. They act as messengers between the innate and adaptive immunity. Dendritic cells are present in tissues in contact with the external environment, such as the skin (where there is a specialized dendritic cell type called Langerhans cells) and the inner lining of the nose, lungs, stomach and intestines" (See Wikipedia)

Bruce Beutler - awarded the 2011 Nobel Medicine Prize for "discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity" (See Wikipedia)
Jules Hoffmann -
awarded the 2011 Nobel Medicine Prize for "discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity" (See Wikipedia)
Ralph Steinman - awarded the 2011 Nobel Medicine Prize for "his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity" (See Wikipedia)

Nobel Medicine Prize -
"awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will" (See Wikipedia)

Shaw Prize - "an annual award first presented in 2004, it honours living "individuals, regardless of race, nationality and religious belief, who have achieved significant breakthrough in academic and scientific research or application, and whose work has resulted in a positive and profound impact on mankind." The prize, widely regarded as the "Nobel of the East", is named after Sir Run Run Shaw (邵逸夫), a leader in the Hong Kong media industry and a long-time philanthropist. The prize is for recent achievements in the fields of astronomy, life science and medicine, and mathematical sciences; it is not awarded posthumously" (See Wikipedia)

Lasker Prize - "awarded annually since 1946 to living persons who have made major contributions to medical science or who have performed public service on behalf of medicine.... The awards are sometimes referred to as "America's Nobels." Seventy-six Lasker laureates have received the Nobel Prize, including 28 in the last two decades" (See Wikipedia)

activation - starting something, turning it from off to on
activation of immune system -
starting the immune system (to defend the body against infection)

- an area that has several parts, connected in difficult to understand ways
defence - resist attack ปกป้อง แก้ต่าง
complex defence system

antibody -
(See Wikipedia)
killer cell -
(See Wikipedia)

- to release suddenly a strong, uncontrollable and usually destructive force ปล่อย
unleash antibodies and killer cells  

- to do something as a reaction to something that has been done ตอบสนอง, ตอบรับ

signalling molecules -
same as "cell signalling"

cell signalling - a complex system of communication that governs basic cellular activities and coordinates cell actions. The ability of cells to perceive and correctly respond to their microenvironment is the basis of development, tissue repair, and immunity as well as normal tissue homeostasis. Errors in cellular information processing are responsible for diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity, and diabetes. By understanding cell signaling, diseases may be treated effectively and, theoretically, artificial tissues may be created (See Wikipedia)

signalling molecules
unleash antibodies and killer cells to respond to invading microbes

- a long-term condition in which the lungs become inflammed and breathing difficult โรคหอบหืด (See Wikipedia)

rheumatoid arthritis -
a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that attacks joints, considered a systemic autoimmune disease, "About 1% of the world's population is afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis, women three times more often than men. Onset is most frequent between the ages of 40 and 50, but people of any age can be affected. It can be a disabling and painful condition, which can lead to substantial loss of functioning and mobility if not adequately treated" (See Wikipedia)

Crohn's disease -
an inflammatory disease of the intestines, causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss, skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, tiredness, and lack of concentration; thought to be an autoimmune disease, in which the body's immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing inflammation; evidence of a genetic link; "tends to present initially in the teens and twenties, with another peak incidence in the fifties to seventies, although the disease can occur at any age.There is no known pharmaceutical or surgical cure for Crohn's disease. Treatment options are restricted to controlling symptoms, maintaining remission, and preventing relapse" (See Wikipedia)

infection -
a disease caused by microorganisms (a parasite) that invade the tissues and cells of a body (the host) and release toxins that damage the body, "Infecting parasites seek to use the host's resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease. Colloquially, infections are usually considered to be caused by microscopic organisms or microparasites like viruses, prions, bacteria, and viroids ... fungi. Hosts normally fight infections themselves via their immune system. Mammalian hosts react to infections with an innate response, often involving inflammation, followed by an adaptive response. Pharmaceuticals can also help fight infections. The branch of medicine that focuses on infections and pathogens is infectious disease medicine" (See Wikipedia)

infectious disease -
diseases caused by infection with a microorganism (See Wikipedia)

(noun) - a red, painful and often swollen area in or on a part of your body การอักเสบ, การติดเชื้อ (See Wikipedia)
inflammatory (adjective) - 
inflammatory disease  

initiate - to cause something to start, begin ริเริ่ม ริเริ่ม
initiate inflammation - start inflammation

pancreatic cancer -
"the fourth most common cause of cancer death both in the United States and internationally. Pancreatic cancer often has a poor prognosis: for all stages combined, the 1- and 5-year relative survival rates are 25% and 6%, respectively; for local disease the 5-year survival is approximately 20% while the median survival for locally advanced and for metastatic disease, which collectively represent over 80% of individuals, is about 10 and 6 months respectively" (See Wikipedia)

arms - weapons อาวุธ
call to arms - gathering together soldiers with their weapons to fight a battle
generalised call to arms - everyone is gathered together to fight in war

muster -
bringing together people to one place (such as soldiers to fight a battle)
mustering platoons of immune cells - groups of immune cells joining together to fight the invader (as groups of soldiers do)

process - a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
chemical process 

identified - found and named ระบุชื่อ

proteins -
(See Wikipedia)
receptor proteins - (See Wikipedia)

- start some process to begin
cascade - a series of events, each event causing the next event in the series
molecular cascade - a series of chemical reactions each causing the next
trigger the molecular cascade - start the molecular cascade

receptor proteins that trigger the molecular cascade which is the innate immune system

establish - create something that will likely continue for a long time สถาปนา, ก่อตั้ง, จัดตั้ง
physical - real things that can be touched and seen (not just an idea or legal right)
physical barrier - anything that prevents moving through a place อุปสรรค 
penetration - moving through the physical barrier
physical barrier against penetration

physical barrier against penetration beyond the microbe's entry point - the infected area is walled off

line of defence
mobilisation of defences

heavy artillery
- large powerful guns that are used by an army and are moved on wheels or fixed in one place ปืนใหญ่

role - the position or function that something has in a situation, what they do บทบาท

stay clear - not affecting or harming, staying away from
able to attack harmful microorganisms while staying clear
of the body's own molecules

General Vocabulary

sweeps - wins all the prizes

trio - a group of three people

- a group of people who have been chosen to listen to all the facts and make some decision, such as 1. who to award a prize; or 2. who is guilty in a legal case คณะลูกขุน
Nobel Jury - the group of people who decide who wins a Nobel Prize

- a prize or a sum of money that is given to someone following an official decision รางวัล

- people who have won a prize
Nobel laureates -
people who have won the Nobel prize in the past

key - important คนสำคัญ
principles - the basic rules (of some activity or event) กฎระเบียบเบื้องต้น
discovering key principles - finding out for the first time the important rules that make the whole system work

for their work - praised for their work

tackling - making an organised and determined attempt to deal with a problem การรับมือ แก้ไข จัดการกับปัญหา

opened up new avenues -
create very new ways to do things
development - creation of new things

- the act of stopping something from happening
therapy - a treatment which helps someone feel better, grow stronger, etc., especially after an illness การบำบัดโรค

caught off guard - surprised (by some event happening suddenly and unexpectedly)

regulations - official rules that control the way that things are done ระเบียบปฏิบัติ ระเบียบ ข้อบังคับ
stipulate - to state clearly exactly how something must be or must be done ระบุ, ระบุเงื่อนไข
posthumously - after a person has died

meeting - when a group of people come together to discuss issues and make decisions การประชุม
meeting late Monday - having a meeting late in the day on Monday

discuss how to handle the situation -
talk together to decide on the right solution to a problem

spokeswoman -
a woman who makes the official announcements for an organization or company

- state that that something will happen in the future or did really happen in the past  (for example, the financing for construction was confirmed, the hotel reservation was confirmed) ยืนยัน

- say firmly that something must happen or is true, and will not change mind

stand by its choice -
will not change their choice

- wishing something had not happened (wishing it could have been different) ความโทมนัส,ความเสียใจ,ความเศร้าโศก

practice - a way of doing something การปฏิบัติ
how it will be done in practice - how they will interpret what the rules actually say and then actually do it

examining the rules - read the rules carefully (to understand what must be done)

thrilled - very excited
bittersweet -
happy and sad, at the same time

passed a few days ago -
passed away a few days ago, died a few days ago

battle with cancer - doctors treated his cancer for a long time but then he died

- praised a person or an achievement by saying that they are similar to someone or something very good ยกย่อง said publicly how good something is; praised โห่ร้องสนับสนุน

share - to have or use something at the same time as someone else ใช้ร่วมกัน
set to share one half of the 10 million - they are about to share 10 million (after a short time)

an honour - when someone in your family or country, etc does something great, so you feel proud

achievement - something very good and difficult that you have succeeded in doing การบรรลุผลสำเร็จ
downplayed his achievement - say what he achieved (the scientific discovery) was not the most important thing

joint - belonging to or shared between two or more people ร่วม, ที่ร่วมกัน
received a joint Shaw prize

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