Jean Dausset dies

The French immunologist Jean Dausset, who won a Nobel Prize for his discovery of human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), key components of the human immune system, died on June 6 in Mallorca, Spain, where he had lived for the past two years. He was 92. Image: Foundation Jean Dausset-CEPH"He was really a very remarkable character," linkurl:Jean-Paul Soulillou,;http://www.fondation-centaure.org/fr/fondation/documents/CvJean-PaulSoulillou.pdf a transplantation researcher at the University of Nantes who c

Elie Dolgin
Jun 22, 2009
The French immunologist Jean Dausset, who won a Nobel Prize for his discovery of human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), key components of the human immune system, died on June 6 in Mallorca, Spain, where he had lived for the past two years. He was 92.
Image: Foundation Jean Dausset-CEPH
"He was really a very remarkable character," linkurl:Jean-Paul Soulillou,;http://www.fondation-centaure.org/fr/fondation/documents/CvJean-PaulSoulillou.pdf a transplantation researcher at the University of Nantes who collaborated occasionally with Dausset, told __The Scientist__. "He was someone who was very elegant in his way of thinking -- very simple, very human, and very nice to know." Dausset's most notable achievement was his 1958 discovery of cell surface markers -- later called HLAs -- that help a person's immune system distinguish between the body's own cells and foreign tissues. The work, which was published in__ linkurl:Acta Haematologica,;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54792/ __has been cited more than 250 times, according to ISI. This discovery paved the way for safer organ transplants by allowing clinicians to match donor and recipient cell types quickly and cheaply by simple blood tests, rather than through more complicated skin grafts. HLA genes also proved important in understanding autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and HIV, and in tracking genetic ancestry. "A key aspect of Dausset's contribution was his insight that one would only unravel the secrets of such a diverse group of genes by analyzing large numbers of family pedigrees," linkurl:Danny Altmann,;http://www1.imperial.ac.uk/medicine/people/d.altmann/ an immunologist at Imperial College London, told the__ linkurl:Telegraph.;http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/medicine-obituaries/5614120/Professor-Jean-Dausset.html __Dausset also showed that genetic factors underlie the production of antibodies in blood transfusion recipients and demonstrated the link between graft efficiency and tissue compatibility. Dausset shared the linkurl:1980 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine;http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1980/index.html with two US-based immunologists, linkurl:George Snell;http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1980/snell-autobio.html and Baruj Benacerraf, for this work. Born on October 19, 1916, in Toulouse, France, Dausset earned a bachelor's degree at the Lycée Michelet in Paris and studied medicine at the University of Paris in the late 1930s. During World War II, he served in North Africa, where he performed blood transfusions and developed an interest in the intersection between the immune and blood systems. Over the years, Dausset worked at the French National Blood Transfusion Center, the Paris General Hospital System, the University of Paris, the Collège de France, and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. In 1984, Dausset used his Nobel Prize money to establish the linkurl:Center for Study of Human Polymorphisms;http://www.cephb.fr/ (CEPH), later renamed the Foundation Jean Dausset-CEPH, which created the linkurl:first comprehensive physical map;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v366/n6456/abs/366698a0.html of the human genome. In 1990, Dausset and his colleagues published a linkurl:paper;http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WG1-4DNHPNC-8S&_user=10&_coverDate=03%2F31%2F1990&_rdoc=23&_fmt=high&_orig=browse&_srch=doc-info(%23toc%236809%231990%23999939996%23526012%23FLP%23display%23Volume)&_cdi=6809&_sort=d&_docanchor=&_ct=23&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=58e109c22a90af77fecbb15ad7909d05 in __Genomics__ describing the CEPH and its collaborative vision to mapping the human genome -- this study has been cited more than 400 times, according to ISI. "[Dausset] set a standard for cooperative sharing in science with the goal of helping others that has truly revolutionized the ways in which we do our work," the CEPH wrote in a linkurl:statement.;http://www.cephb.fr/en/index.php "He was very involved in promoting and defending research among universities," said Soulillou, "and he has been instrumental in inventing new institutions and organizations for research" in France.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:50 years ago in immunology;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54792/
[July 2008]*linkurl:Human genome mapping;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/17094/
[8th July 1996]