The week of Nobel Prize announcements has begun, and first up was medicine, which was awarded today. The winners: three researchers who have made key discoveries about the immune system. American Bruce Beutler, Luxembourg native Jules Hoffmann, and Canadian-born Ralph Steinman "have revolutionized our understanding of the immune system by discovering key principles for its activation," said the Nobel panel.
The researchers’ work has led to vaccines that prompt the immune system to attack tumors, Reuters reports. Receptor proteins discovered by Beutler and Hoffman in the '90s identify threatening microorganisms, launching the body’s “innate immunity,” the institute noted. Two decades earlier, Steinman discovered cells that regulate “adaptive immunity,” which rids the body of microorganisms, notes the AP. Beutler and Hoffmann will get half the $1.46 million prize; Steinman will receive the other half. (Read more immune system stories.)