Foundations | The Holy Grail of Immunology

In 1983, Tak Mak's lab cloned the beta chain of the T-cell receptor, helping to accomplish what the immunology community had been anticipating for 20-plus years. But the T-cell receptor's structure was believed to be heterodimeric, and no one had deciphered what the other piece looked like. In 1984, Mak sketched his thoughts on its shape for a student, Pamela Ohashi, who then made antibodies to peptides, using the already cloned beta-chain sequences as models. (It was Ohashi, now an immunologist, who kept Mak's original sketch.) In time, Mak's sketch was proven to be correct.

"At the very beginning, when thoughts are still brewing in your mind, and the facts are not yet in, you have to take a leap of faith," says Mak, of the University of Toronto. "And luckily, we turned out to be right. The...

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?