Published on April 3, 2012   53 min

Other Talks in the Therapeutic Area: Immunology & Inflammation

My name is Luke O'Neill. I am Professor of Biochemistry in the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, part of the School of Biochemistry and Immunology. So what I'm going to be telling you all about is a family of receptors called the toll-like receptors, and then I'm also going to tell you about related innate immune receptor systems, because this area has undergone a major explosion of information in the past 10 years or so. And a discovery of these receptors has greatly helped our understanding of innate immunity and also of the inflammatory process. And there's lots of insights coming out of this research into diseases like arthritis, metabolic diseases like diabetes, atherosclerosis. And really, many people see these discoveries as being the most important in the past 10 years or so in the whole field of immunology.
Now, this area, of course, is extremely important for medicine and that can be seen in the award in 2011 of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the area of innate immunity, and these three scientists, Bruce Beutler, Jules Hoffmann, and Ralph Steinman, were given this great honor. And everybody in the field of immunology is delighted to see this honor being given because their discoveries, as I say, really have had a huge influence on the whole field of immunology and also the basis for many diseases, including inflammatory diseases. And what Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffman won for was effectively discovering the toll-like receptor system. Jules in particular found toll in the fruit fly, and his lab discovered this as having a key role in anti-fungal community in the fly. And then Bruce Beutler found the mammalian system of toll-like receptors, in particular that toll-like number four can sense a product called lipopolysaccharide or LPS, from gram negative bacteria. And this is a big step up in our understanding about how the immune system senses bacteria. And then thirdly, Ralph Steinman, he won the Nobel Prize for discovering dendritic cells. And these are the key front line cells in innate immunity. And they also become activated and then trigger adaptive immunity. So in many ways, the three of them combined, then, reflect these recent discoveries in the area of toll-like receptors and innate immunity.