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April 2002

Release Date: April 02, 2002

Moon Lecturer on 'Parade' at ASU April 9

Dr. Polly Celine Eveline Matzinger, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientist whose research was profiled in the March 24 issue of Parade magazine in Sunday newspapers throughout the nation, will discuss her theories of immunology April 9 during the 26th Moon Distinguished Lectureship in Science at Angelo State University.

Matzinger is head of the section on T cell tolerance and memory, Ghost Lab, Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, NIH. She has developed a theory challenging the conventional wisdom of how the body's immune system works. If proven correct, her research will change the way many diseases, including cancer, are treated.

She will deliver a technical lecture for students at 2 p.m. April 9 on "Does the Immune System Really Distinguish Between Self and Non-Self?" and an 8 p.m. public lecture on "From an Ancient Native American Myth: A Treatment for Hemophilia." Both programs will be in the C.J. Davidson Conference Center in ASU's Houston Harte University Center.

For a half a century researchers have believed that the fundamental role of the immune system was to recognize the difference between "self" and "non-self," the terms used to differentiate between an organism's own cells and alien or intruder cells.

If that model is correct, Dr. Matzinger has questioned how bacteria, which thrive in the human body, or even a human fetus, itself an alien organism with its unique cellular makeup, can survive in the human body.

To explain these immunological anomalies, Dr. Matzinger has postulated that the role of T cells, the body's surveillance cells, is not just to identify alien cells but rather to determine which of those intruder cells may be dangerous to the body's proper functioning.

Evidence is growing in support of the soundness of her scientific reasoning and forcing immunologists, whether they like it or not, to reconsider the theories upon which so much of their research has been based in the past. Her theory is now known as the "Danger Model" and her research has major implications for understanding autoimmune disease, organ transplantation, cancer treatment, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, among others.

Matzinger's rise to scientific prominence is just as unconventional as her theories of immunology. Her resume lists a variety of occupations jazz musician, dog trainer, carpenter, music student, Playboy bunny and waitress before she got serious about science.

She holds her B.S. from the University of California at Irvine and her Doctor of Philosophy from the University of California at San Diego. Additionally, she served four years as a National Institutes of Health Overseas Fellow in the Department of Pathology at Cambridge University.

The Moon Lectureship was established in 1976 in memory of former San Angelo physician Roy E. Moon by five of his colleagues and has been funded annually by a grant from the physicians of West Texas Medical Associates. The lectureship brings scientists of national prominence to the ASU campus each year for public lectures, colloquia, classroom visits and informal discussions.

Members of the Moon Lecture selection committee are David H. Loyd, Jr., Ph.D., Patrick E. Gibson, M.D., John T. Granaghan, Jr., M.D., Crosby W. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., C. Varren Parker, Jr., Ph.D., Fazlur Rahman, M.D., Jane Rider, M.D., and George E. Shankle, Ph.D.

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