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George Snell, DSc, Jean Dausset, MD, and Baruj Benacerraf, MD: These names, heretofore little known outside scientific circles, have in recent weeks become familiar to millions of people.
Born early this century in Massachusetts, France, and Venezuela, respectively, these three elder statesmen (aged 76, 63, and 60 years, respectively) of histocompatibility research will be in Stockholm Dec 6 to accept their joint Nobel Prize in Medicine.
The Royal Caroline Institute of Medicine notes that the prize—$211,000, to be split among the three scientists—is being awarded for elucidation of the histocompatibility gene complex, which controls most immunologic reactions. Knowledge of that complex, which specifies antigens on the cell surface, has had profound implications for the understanding of phenomena ranging from the rejection of kidney and bone marrow transplants to the pathogenesis of autoimmune disorders.
Snell's contribution, which led the way for histocompatibility antigen matching in transplantation, was his discovery of the
González ER. Immunogenetics recognized by Nobel Prize. JAMA. 1980;244(21):2396-2400. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310210006003