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3 Share Nobel Prize In Medicine For Immune System Work 75

alphadogg writes "This year's Nobel Laureates have revolutionized our understanding of the immune system by discovering key principles for its activation. Scientists have long been searching for the gatekeepers of the immune response by which man and other animals defend themselves against attack by bacteria and other microorganisms. Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffmann discovered receptor proteins that can recognize such microorganisms and activate innate immunity, the first step in the body's immune response. Ralph Steinman discovered the dendritic cells of the immune system and their unique capacity to activate and regulate adaptive immunity, the later stage of the immune response during which microorganisms are cleared from the body."
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3 Share Nobel Prize In Medicine For Immune System Work

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  • Medine..?

    Nice to know that the editors are doing their job.

  • by MDillenbeck ( 1739920 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:00AM (#37588722)
    Makes me wonder - would they ever give the protein folding gamers a Nobel prize? Probably not - but they did make a significant contribution to science. Then again, maybe award it to the project to help it fund further crowd-sourced applications.
    • Re:Hmmmmm.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:15AM (#37588808)

      would they ever give the protein folding gamers a Nobel prize? Probably not - but they did make a significant contribution to science.

      As far as I know they have not awarded a hard science prize merely for being donors. Otherwise I'm sure over the past century or two the humble lab rat would have earned a prize by now.

      Also engineering achievements, at least solely with respect to being an engineering achievement, never win a prize.

      For example, the politicians who paid for CERN have never won a prize (at least not for donating CERN funds). The engineers who design particle detectors never win a prize (design as in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, not design as in basic concept of operation). However the '92 physics prize was awarded to the inventor of the multiwire proportional chamber (a gross simplification is its kinda like a 3-d geiger counter instead of being a 0-d scalar detector, sorta)

      • The Foldit gamers weren't "merely" donors. They made an actual discovery.
        They looked at the shape of a protein, thought, discussed and experimented in how they could fold it properly, and in the end they found a novel solution to a problem that hadn't been solved before.
        That is not "donation", that is a scientific discovery.

        • by vlm ( 69642 )

          Hmmm maybe the best /. car analogy I can make is the guy who invented the idea of a turbocharger is gonna win the prize, not the guy who plugged numbers into predetermined equations and made this specific individual turbo.

          A more scientific analogy is the guy who donates his stellar light magnitude measurements to the AAVSO is not gonna win the prize, even if an astrophysicist analyzes the donor's data and writes a very important variable star paper that depended on those measurements.

          • You're still missing the point.
            Your second analogy actually describes the foldit situation perfectly, just that its the other way around. It would be more fitting to describe the foldit gamers as the astrophysicists who analyses data and makes a discovery. To go through the analogy step by step, the magnitude measurements would in this case be the foldit program itself and the data about the protein in question that was known in beforehand. The gamers use of a program is not analogous to them using a measur

      • "Also engineering achievements, at least solely with respect to being an engineering achievement, never win a prize."

        Surely true in general, but wasn't there a guy with the fiber optics who won it not long ago?

      • by ABoerma ( 941672 )

        I would say that the invention of the sun valve (Gustaf Dalen, Nobel prize for physics in 1912) was a pure engineering achievement.

      • There are already a few more examples on the thread. Add there the scanning tunnel microscope. (Aren't there also other microscope and telescope inventions?)

        If you don't consider your and those other examples engineering, what is it? In fact, lots physics nobels are over the very fuzzy line that separates science from engineering.

      • by migloo ( 671559 )
        "Also engineering achievements, at least solely with respect to being an engineering achievement, never win a prize."
        The 1979 Nobel prize in medicine was awarded for the development of "Computer Assisted Tomography".
        This was an engineering achievement based on generous financing and on a previous major scientific achievement, the Fast Fourier Transformation, probably too mathematical to deserve a Nobel prize.
        Additionally, the 2003 prize was [mis-]attributed for the [re-]discovery of MRI, another eng
    • by KliX ( 164895 )

      Dude, the protein folding gamers were a slightly better stochastic cog. Significant, not so much.

    • No, but whoever turned folding into a game should deserve honorable credit

  • Steinman is dead (Score:5, Informative)

    by zakkie ( 170306 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:01AM (#37588726) Homepage

    AP says Steinman died September 30th (will get link after posting). Nobel prize not awarded posthumously, apparently.

    • Re:Steinman is dead (Score:4, Informative)

      by zakkie ( 170306 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:03AM (#37588734) Homepage

      Here's a link:

      Although it looks like the prize will remain awarded.

  • Dead laurete (Score:4, Informative)

    by miowpurr ( 1004277 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:19AM (#37588842) Homepage
    Ralph Steinman has died, he might not be awarded the Nobel after all. []
    • by Teun ( 17872 )
      Why not award it posthumous, it has been done before.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Only if the receiver dies between announcement and ceremony. In all other cases, the deceased are excluded. This one is problematic, because he died before the announcement, but it was unknown to the committee...

      • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

        Because the rules say that it's no longer awarded posthumously, unless the winner died after it was announced. What's the point of having a rule if it is just ignored?

        In this case, I think there is some gray area. The actual rule states

        Work produced by a person since deceased shall not be considered for an award. If, however, a prizewinner dies before he has received the prize, then the prize may be presented.

        Since he was alive while it was being considered, that portion has been met. When was it actuall

  • This is what Nobel prize should be about - not about politics and non-sciences, like Keynesian witch craft of one solution.

    Giving a prize for figuring out how the immune system works? Good.

    Giving out a 'war is peace' prize to Obama or 'print till you run out of trees' Krugman? Well, that's just a political statement and I am not sure what good it is at all.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      I am not sure what good it is at all.

      Some of the most important historical physics experiments were negative result or "failure". Michealson-Morley aether / speed of light interferometer which stubbornly refused to show light goes faster pointed ahead of earths orbit as compared to pointed behind earths orbit. The noise level in that giant microwave horn antenna is too blasted high to be useful for communications when pointed at the sky, celestial noise, WTF is it? I'm trying to think of some more good examples... Trying to detect high inte

    • Uhh, nothing's changed. There are different categories for the Nobel Prizes: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Economics, and Peace.

      The three science prizes will always be about science, and the others will always be contentious and to varying degrees political.

  • What is the importance of the Nobel Prize itself?

    Yes, it is important to the winners. But, for the rest of the world? Does it give focus to something we need to recognize, also today, 110 year after the start?

    I think it is still important, but sometimes you people complaining about it, which made me wonder.

    What do you think?

  • I've just learned that one of the three, Mr. Ralf Steinman, has died last Friday; ironically, he has died of cancer of the pancreas (not sure of my medical English, here) although his life had apparently been extended by a treatment based on his own research work. The committee is pondering what to do: the rules state that no-one can receive the Nobel prize posthumously, although an exception is made when a winner dies between the official announcement and the ceremony. Here, the winner has died just before

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 03, 2011 @11:07AM (#37589868)

    the regulations of the Nobel committee do NOT state that the prize can be awarded after the announcement. There is no mention whatsoever of an announcement in the regulations. They state, clearly, that the work of a dead scientist cannot be considered by the committee, implying the scientist has to be living while he is being considered. Unless a significant part of the "consideration" of the nobel committee was carried out during the weekend, Ralph should "keep" his prize. Given that Ralph had been a shoo-in for the prize for years already I'd say the committee did consider him enough while alive.

    a grieving colleague of Ralph.

  • by wwphx ( 225607 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @11:14AM (#37589938) Homepage
    as I'm a person with such a disorder. Specifically, my body does not produce immuneglobin, which can make me very susceptible to disease. My triggering event was in 2009 when I had pneumonia four times in five months, fortunately I had no permanent lung damage as a result. I have to infuse immuneglobin into my abdomen weekly to stay reasonably healthy (four needles/90 minutes/twice a week, I recently did my 200th infusion).

    For the most part, it's a life-long genetic condition, and we had indicators that I did get sick more often than most people, but it took this mini-crisis for me to get diagnosed and treated. There is no cure as of yet. My specific disorder is that my body's B cells do not produce immuneglobin in response to the presence of infection. They have successfully forced/tricked B cells to produce IG in a petri dish, but have not yet succeeded at that rat level.

    Which brings us to the interesting part. I've heard a theory that immune system shut-down could actually be a form of defensive mechanism. For certain types of immunodeficiency they have successfully turned the immune system back on, but they've had a very high incidence of tumors later. So it's possible that an immune system clamps down and stops producing certain types of immuneglobin so that the body doesn't start producing cancer.

    Interesting concept. They've also seen a reduction in certain cancer rates for people on immuneglobin therapy, and since I'll be doing this for the rest of my life, that's small compensation.

    Treatment is expensive, it takes portions of 10,000 plasma donations to produce one treatment. That's a pretty scary scale to me.
    • by Jaqenn ( 996058 )
      I'm confused by the word 'portion' in that last sentence. Is it the variety that's really important, even if the portion of the donation is very small?

      In other words, if you used each donation only for producing treatments, does mixing together 10,000 donations get you 10,000 treatments, or 5,000, or 5, or what?
      • by wwphx ( 225607 )
        Unfortunately I didn't attend the panel on how the product is made when I attended a conference earlier this year. It is my understanding that if you give a plasma donation or sell plasma, the immuneglobin (Ig) constitutes a fairly small amount as the plasma is filtered from your whole blood. The Ig has to be further processed through filtration, purification, inspection, concentration, etc., until it ends up in the bottle that I just finished infusing. I infuse 10 grams a week (50 ml), I have no idea ho
        • by wwphx ( 225607 )
          The answer that I got was that 10,000 plasma donations are pooled for one batch to get a good mix of antibodies. Each donation is less than a liter, though I didn't get an exact number, and one donation is 4 grams of IgG, so I personally need 10 donation equivalents per month (I receive 4 weeks of meds per shipment, so we call that a month). I don't think you can easily say that the average treatment is X grams per month as it varies wildly depending on the person's problems, treatment and body weight.
  • Perhaps Steinman wasn't certainly dead until the committee was informed of which world they were now in (the world where Steinman died on Friday), and therefore the normal rules of the award don't need to be broken to give him the prize. That is, when the committee made the announcement, Steinman was both dead and alive? I'm conflating theories, I know, but please understand I have no idea what I'm talking about.

  • It is quite amusing how educational and research institutions try to immediately flaunt their affiliations with the Nobel Laureates. Bruce A. Beutler is a particularly intriguing case. The University of Chicago chalks this up as laureate number 86 as he attended medical school there. The Scripps Research Institute where he was a professor until recently is hailing him as their own. This is despite that as of Septermber 1, 2011, Prof. Beutler is now Director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense at

    • It is quite amusing how educational and research institutions try to immediately flaunt their affiliations with the Nobel Laureates

      Sometimes this gets downright embarrassing. Nearly a decade ago a former chemistry professor at the university where I worked won a Nobel, which the school lost no time in bragging about. What they didn't mention was that he was forced into mandatory retirement not long after he made the discovery for which the prize was awarded.

  • Hats of to the Commitee for deciding to grant Ralph Steinman the prize. The rule obviously exists to promote, award and acknowledge NEW research and all his research was 'up to date'. Literally. See: []

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll