ENCORE: The Father of the Modern Science of Immunology, Part 1


(Originally published July 2016.) This year, we celebrate the centennial of the death of Elie Metchnikoff, the Russian zoologist who is recognized today as the father of the modern science of immunology. Metchnikoff discovered the white blood cells that act as cellular “pacmen” to devour foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria. But Metchnikoff is probably best known today as the originator of our understanding of the role probiotics play in human health and disease. Metchnikoff kicked off a sensation in 1904 when he touted live cultures as an anti-aging elixir, igniting a world-wide yogurt craze. Metchnikoff was one of the first to systematically study the aging process; he linked it to “autointoxication” in the intestines. While his theories fell into disrepute in the mid-Twentieth Century, were he to be alive today he would be gratified with the current resurgence of interest in the Microbiome and its impact on health and longevity. The modern concepts of “endotoxins” and “leaky gut” owe a debt of gratitude to Metchnikoff’s seminal discoveries. At first greeted with skepticism and derision, Metchnikoff was ultimately awarded the Nobel Prize for his research. Click HERE for part 2.

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