NK cells: from receptors to the cure of leukaemias

10th March 2014.
L Moretta, G Gaslini Institute, Genoa and University of Genoa.

The first Carlo Moreschi lecture will be given on the 10th of March 2014 by Lorenzo Moretta. The poster of the lecture can be downloaded here.

Carlo Moreschi was born in Cermenate (Como) in 1876 and studied Medicine at the University of Pavia (1894-1900) and Collegio Borromeo (1896-1900). He worked in C Golgi’s laboratory as an undergraduate and published studies on experimental typhoid fever as early as 1900. After graduation he joined the University Clinic and continued his research on infectious disease and immunological reactions under Luigi Devoto. In 1904 he moved to the Institute of Hygiene of the University of Königsberg to work with Robert Pfeiffer, who had isolated H influenzae in 1892.  He worked in Germany, except for brief periods of times in which he returned to Pavia, until 1909 spending the last two years in Paul Ehrlich laboratory in Frankfurt and contributing to studies on tumour growth. After returning to Pavia in 1909/10 he joined the University Clinic directed by Vittorio Ascoli and shifted his interests to leukaemias. He joined the Army during World War 1 as a medical officer. He obtained a fixed-term contract at the University of Sassari (Sardinia) in 1916 and a tenured position in Messina in 1920 where he set himself the ambitious task of building a new Clinic and research laboratories. In 1921, however, aged 45, he contracted smallpox and died in in Pavia assisted by his close friend Emilio Veratti whom he had known since the undergraduate years in C Golgi’s laboratory. Carlo Moreschi studied extensively key components of soluble immunity, such as complement, and a range of immunological phenomena - such as agglutination and complement fixation - and their application to the diagnosis of infectious diseases (serology).  Further, in a key paper that he published in 1908 he described the anti-globulin reaction (Neue Tatsachen über die Blutkörperchenagglutination in Zentralblatt Bakteriol 46:49-51 (1908).  He is the main pioneer of immunological research in Italy. He married Carlotta Mühsam in 1909 and had two children.

Lorenzo Moretta, the first Carlo Moreschi lecturer, was born in Genoa in 1948 and studied Medicine at the University of Genoa where he graduated in 1972. He carried out post-doctoral research at Birmingham (Alabama) and Lausanne where he became Director of the Clinical Immunology Laboratories of the Lausanne Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research before returning to Genoa where he has held the Chair of General Pathology from 1994 and has been Director of the G Gaslini Institute from 2000. Lorenzo Moretta’s early research involved the identification and characterisation of T lymphocyte subpopulations in humans. In subsequent years he broadened his interests to the study of natural killer (NK) lymphocytes and discovered a class of inhibiting receptors specific for HLA class I molecules (named KIR) as well as a second class of receptors responsible for NK cell activation and tumour killing. In a development of this programme of research Lorenzo Moretta and his colleagues discovered a major role of NK cells - and KIR-HLA-class I mismtaches in the eradication of acute, high risk myeloid leukemias. Lorenzo Moretta is a member of several major scientific and medical Academies and has won a number of Research Prizes in Italy and abroad, notably the  WB Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology of USA Cancer Research Institute (New York) and the Novartis Award for Basic Immunology  (Stockholm).

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