Exhibition on history of immunology to be presented at 2nd European Congress of Immunology

An exhibition entitled "The Birth of Immunology" during the 2nd European Congress of Immunology from13th to 16th September 2009 at the main foyer of the ICC in Berlin will offer insights into the fast-paced history of immunology. Immunology has promoted medical progress since the end of the 19th century like almost no other discipline. Around 1900, as many as five Nobel Prizes were awarded for immunological research. The crucial finding was that immunity is an active biological process by which our body reacts to foreign invaders. The discrimination between "self" and "non-self" is the foundation of a functioning immune system.

The beginnings of immunology took place between 1880 and 1920 in Europe, with Paris and Berlin as internationally known centers of research. The discoveries of French microbiologist Louis Pasteur and his German colleague Robert Koch made it possible to specifically manipulate infectious agents in the laboratory and to develop vaccines and antisera using the pathogen cultures. Among the greatest successes of evolving immunology were the vaccines against rabies, typhus, and - after many attempts - tuberculosis as well as the development of serum therapies against diphtheria and tetanus by German scientists and doctors Emil von Behring and Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich and Russian biologist Elie Metchnikoff laid the foundation for the theory of antibodies and defense cells almost at the same time. The description of allergic phenomena and autoimmune reactions shortly after 1900 as well as the discovery of the blood types by Viennese pathologist Karl Landsteiner are further milestones of the founding years of immunology.

At the end of this epoch, a whole new discipline had evolved. Doctors now knew that the immunity of the organism is based on white blood cells and antibodies, that the body's own defense mechanisms become the cause of disease in allergic reactions and that the blood types determine the risk of transfusions. The relevance of immunological research had become obvious for everybody. The doors had been opened to understanding the immune system.


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