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Confusion interpreting the H2 system


Period of confusion in immunology with many false claims
Jan Klein Scientist
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So coming back to immunology.  By that time I moved to... it must have been in 1978 or '79... I moved to Tübingen in Germany and because of the circumstances that I explained, I had to pay attention to what was happening in immunology in general. By that time I met Zoltan Nagy who was a trained immunologist and he expressed interest in joining my group, so he did and he was then primarily responsible for the immunological work and through him I got directly involved in immunology as well, so that explains some of the studies that came later.  And as I mentioned before, Hans-Georg Rammensee, who was my student originally, after finishing his post doctoral training in La Jolla and in Basel in the immunology institute came back to my institute and it was there that he started to work on the antigen presentation... the peptide elution from the MHC molecules and so on.

But it was, as I said, not only a period of excitement but also a period of confusion and I think the historians will have once... sometime in the future, a very interesting time to go through all the claims that have been put forward, and I'm not talking about just speculations and hypothesis, they were fantastic... truly fantastic hypothesis from when you look back in the retrospect, bizarre. But those were okay still because people can fantasise if they want to until the data appear, but what was not okay was that many of the data that were presented, many of the results could not be reproduced, that there were claims made on the data, on the basis of data that could not have been true. The results just could not have been correct. So it will be for the future historians to find out what was actually going on, but in that time of course we did not know that the data would not be reproducible or that you should ignore certain part of what was appearing and presented for believing and it's very difficult to decide what to believe and what not. So the whole area of so-called enhancing and suppressing factors, the anti-idiotypic big networks, that is the so-called J-locus, and many other similar claims, turned out to be... they just collapsed.  And when it was at the end and it became clear what the actual emergency function is and everything was understood, these results could not have been true. So it was really a period of a great confusion and it was at that time that I decided that I had had enough of immunology and I don't want to try to decide or check always in my own laboratory what is true or what is not true... made things very difficult in the way of thinking where you should go if you don't know whether a certain claim is true or not and to test every of the claims was just not possible. The laboratory was too small for that. So that's when I began to think that I should start something new and that's what I did.

Born in 1936, Jan Klein is a Czech-American immunologist who co-founded the modern science of immunogenetics – key to understanding illness and disease. He is the author or co-author of over 560 scientific publications and of seven books including 'Where Do We Come From?' which examines the molecular evolution of humans. He graduated from the Charles University at Prague in 1955, and received his MS in Botany from the same school in 1958. From 1977 to his retirement in 2004, he was the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biology at Tübingen, Germany.

Listeners: Colm O'hUigin

Colm O'hUigin is a senior staff scientist at the US National Cancer Institute. He received his BA, MSc and PhD at the Genetics Department of Trinity College, Dublin where he later returned as a lecturer. He has held appointments at the Center for Population and Demographic Genetics, UT Houston, and at the University of Cambridge. As an EMBO fellow, he moved in 1990 to the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen, Germany to work with Jan Klein and lead a research group studying the evolutionary origins of immune molecules, of teeth, trypanosomes and of species.

Tags: Tübingen, Zoltan Nagy, Hans-Georg Rammensee

Duration: 5 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008