Emory Report
November 13, 2006
Volume 59, Number 11



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November 13 , 2006
Breinin Lecture to feature talk on role of dendritic cells, vaccines

BY kim urquhart

Ralph Steinman, the Rockefeller University biologist who discovered the existence of dendritic cells, recently discussed harnessing the power of dendritic cell biology in vaccine design at the Goodwin and Rose Helen Breinin Lectureship in Basic Sciences on Thursday, Nov. 9.

Dendritic cells, which serve as the eyes and ears of the immune system, monitor foreign substances in the body and communicate whether the substances present a danger to the immune system. Steinman’s research as senior physician at the Rockfeller University Hospital and as Henry G. Kunkel Professor at Rockefeller University has explored how the power of these cells and other components of the immune system can help to curb infections and other communicable diseases.

Since discovering the dendritic cell with Rockefeller colleague Zanvil Cohn in 1973, Steinman “has continued to be the leader in study of this particular cell type and its important functions,” said Richard Compans, chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Emory School of Medicine. The growing body of knowledge about this specialized cell has helped clinical researchers expand the development of immune-based therapies.

Steinman’s current research addresses the fundamental mechanisms of immunity and the interface of several disease states with the immune system, including studies aimed at developing vaccines and immune-based therapies for tumors, infections and autoimmune diseases.

The award-winning scientist currently heads the Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology at Rockefeller. Steinman also serves as editor of the Journal of Experimental Medicine and is active in several health care organizations.

The Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, the School of Medicine and the Emory Vaccine Center sponsored the event. Goodwin Breinin, an Emory medical school alumnus and a pioneer in developing new treatments for glaucoma, established the fund that has supported the annual lectureship since 1996.