Illustration of Immune tolerance

1949 Immune tolerance

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Peter Medawar, Frank Macfarlane Burnet immunology Illustration of Immune tolerance

Immune tolerance

Mac Burnet predicted it. Peter Medawar discovered it. People were dying of transplants— kidney transplants often killed; spleen transplants often killed. Medawar, a British zoologist who had treated victims burned in the Blitz experimented with skin-grafts on animals. Influenced by Burnet, Medowar discovered, in mice, the process of immunity acquired in the womb by exposure to skin from a particular donor, after which the mice were able to tolerate skin grafts from the same donor. This discovery led to an understanding and the development of drugs to suppress the immune system for transplants.


By default our bodies reject anything they don’t recognize. Abnormalities can result in various autoimmune disease. Fetuses acquire tolerance in pregnancy. Adults can acquire it orally. We can learn tolerance. We can learn to calm our fears.

Our own

Any one of many lambs in the fold all look the same to us but the mother knows her own. * Our own innocent babies, snotty, wet, and crying, always look beautiful to us.

Failures of one’s immune system to recognize one’s self results in various autoimmune diseases, including Addison’s disease, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, diabetes mellitus type 1, Grave’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

See also in The book of science:

Readings in wikipedia: