Nobel laureate Prof Jules A Hoffmann believes ageing is the most important challenge faced by mankind as it leads to several immune system deficiency diseases. The man, who won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with two others for discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity, also identifies cancer and its 200-odd subtypes as a fundamental biological problem.
Delivering a lecture on ‘The Antimicrobial defense of Drosophila- A Paradigm for Innate Immunity from Flies to Humans’ jointly organised by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and the Indo-French Centre for Promotion of Advanced Research (CIFIPRA) at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology here on Wednesday, Prof Hoffmann predicted that there was a possibility of deriving solutions to diseases like HIV and cancer in the next 50 years. “Science cannot be programmed. But you have to compare new technology with old. There is no reason why we should refuse advancement of science,” he pointed out.Asked if his findings would help in deriving solutions to various diseases like cancer, he replied, “it is highly likely” but added he had no intention to work in that direction. He was however amazed at how insects coped with diseases. According to him, insects constitute about 80% of the species on the planet and that are responsible for transmission of one-third of all diseases to humans. Immuno-therapy has to be developed soon as it can help us understand human immunology.
Prof Hoffmann studied Drosophila, a common fruit fly, also known as the Cinderella of modern genetics, which has genes similar to humans and are considered basic models for experimental purposes. He discovered receptor proteins that recognize micro-organisms and activate innate immunity, the first step in the body’s immune response, which can destroy invading microbes and trigger inflammation that blocks their assault.