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Susumu Tonegawa

Susumu Tonegawa
Born September 6, 1939 (1939-09-06) (age 70)
Nagoya, Japan
Nationality Japan
Alma mater Kyoto University, University of California, San Diego
Known for antibody diversity
Notable awards Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize in 1982, Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1987

Susumu Tonegawa (利根川 進 Tonegawa Susumu, born September 6, 1939) is a Japanese scientist who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1987 for "his discovery of the genetic principle for generation of antibody diversity." Although he won the Nobel Prize for his work in immunology, Tonegawa is a molecular biologist by training. In his later years, he has turned his attention to the molecular and cellular basis of memory formation.

Tonegawa is best known for elucidating the genetic mechanism in the adaptive immune system. To achieve the diversity of antibodies needed to protect against any type of antigen, the immune system would require millions of genes coding for different antibodies, if each antibody was encoded by one gene. Instead, as Tonegawa showed in a landmark series of experiments beginning in 1976, genetic material can rearrange itself to form the vast array of available antibodies. Comparing the DNA of B cells (a type of white blood cell) in embryonic and adult mice, he observed that genes in the mature B cells of the adult mice are moved around, recombined, and deleted to form the diversity of the variable region of antibodies.

Tonegawa was born in Nagoya, Japan and attended the Hibiya High School in Tokyo. [1] He received his bachelor's degree from Kyoto University in 1963. He received his doctorate from the University of California, San Diego where he worked with Dr Masaki Hayashi. He did post-doctoral work at the Salk Institute in San Diego in the laboratory of Renato Dulbecco, then worked at the Basel Institute for Immunology in Basel, Switzerland, where he performed his landmark immunology experiments. In 1981, he became a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and founded and directed what is now called the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT. In 1982, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University together with Barbara McClintock, another Nobel Prize winner in 1983. He is a member of the Scientific Board of Governors at The Scripps Research Institute. He is currently the director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at MIT. While he heads a full research laboratory at MIT, as of April 1, 2009, he serves as the director of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute (BSI) in Wako-shi, Japan.


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