Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2008
Posted on October 6, 2008 Comments (2)
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2008 with one half to Harald zur Hausen for his discovery of “human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer” and the other half jointly to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for their discovery of “human immunodeficiency virus.”
Harald zur Hausen went against current dogma and postulated that oncogenic human papilloma virus (HPV) caused cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women. He realized that HPV-DNA could exist in a non-productive state in the tumours, and should be detectable by specific searches for viral DNA. He found HPV to be a heterogeneous family of viruses. Only some HPV types cause cancer. His discovery has led to characterization of the natural history of HPV infection, an understanding of mechanisms of HPV-induced carcinogenesis and the development of prophylactic vaccines against HPV acquisition.
Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier discovered human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Virus production was identified in lymphocytes from patients with enlarged lymph nodes in early stages of acquired immunodeficiency, and in blood from patients with late stage disease. They characterized this retrovirus as the first known human lentivirus based on its morphological, biochemical and immunological properties. HIV impaired the immune system because of massive virus replication and cell damage to lymphocytes. The discovery was one prerequisite for the current understanding of the biology of the disease and its antiretroviral treatment.
Graphics from the Nobel prize web site showing the human papilloma virus and the human immunodeficiency virus:
Three Europeans Win the 2008 Nobel for Medicine
The institute said the other half of the award will be shared equally by two French virologists, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, for discovering H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Since its discovery in 1981, AIDS has rivaled the worst epidemics in history. An estimated 25 million people have died, and 33 million more are living with H.I.V.