Russian zoologist and immunologist who was a pioneer of cellular immunology and shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1908 with Paul Ehrlich for the discovery of the innate immune response.
Types of immunity While at a teaching post in Italy, Metchnikoff started working on the immune cells of the starfish and discovered innate immunity; the process by which mobile white blood cells (phagocytes) engulf and digest potentially harmful micro-organisms. Innate immunity is the inborn, nonspecific defence against infection, since prior exposure to the pathogen is not required. Alternatively, adaptive or acquired immunity refers to the production of a specific antibody against a particular germ and is the basis of vaccination. Innate immunity is important to the fight against any infection, since it provides defence against pathogens during the three to five days it takes to elicit the acquired immune response.
Life Metchnikoff was born near Kharkov in the Ukraine and studied at the University of Kharkov before completing his PhD at the University of Petersburg in 1867. He taught zoology and anatomy at Odessa and St Petersburg and was professor of zoology and comparative anatomy at Odessa 1873–82 before accepting a teaching post at Messina, Italy, where he did most of his research on the immune system. In 1886, he returned to Russia to head the Institute of Bacteriology in Odessa but a year later left for Paris on the invitation of Louis Pasteur to start a new laboratory at the Pasteur Institute. He became director of the institute on Pasteur's death in 1895.
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