Jean-Laurent Casanova, MD, PhD, Professor and Head, St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases, the Rockefeller University; HHMI Investigator; and Senior Attending Physician, the Rockefeller University Hospital, will present the first Heberden Society Lecture of the 2015-16 academic year on Wednesday, September 9, at The New York Academy of Medicine. The lecture is co-sponsored by NYAM'S Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health and is open to the public.
The Human Genetic Theory of Infectious Diseases: A Brief History
Wednesday, September 9. 6:00 PM
The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd St.
Please register at http://www.nyam.org/events/2015/2015-09-09.html The event is free but registration is recommended.
Until the mid-nineteenth century, life expectancy at birth averaged 20 years worldwide, owing mostly to childhood fevers. The source of such illness was a topic of great debate. In a wide-ranging talk, Dr. Jean-Laurent Casanova of the Rockefeller University presents the history of both the germ theory and the emerging genetic theory of infectious diseases. The germ theory of diseases proposed specific, external sources for infection. However, around the turn of the twentieth century, asymptomatic infection was discovered to be much more common than clinical disease. Population and clinical geneticists proposed a complementary hypothesis, a germline genetic theory of infectious diseases. Over the past century, this idea has gained some support, particularly among clinicians and geneticists, but has also encountered resistance, particularly among microbiologists and immunologists. Dr. Casanova presents the genetic theory of infectious diseases, and discusses its history and the challenges it encountered from apparently competing but actually complementary microbiological and immunological theories.
Jean-Laurent Casanova, MD, PhD, is a Professor and Head of the St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases at the Rockefeller University, Senior Attending Physician at the Rockefeller University Hospital, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is a pediatrician and immunologist by training, and in practice, has become a human geneticist investigating infectious diseases. He discovered that life-threatening infectious diseases of childhood may be caused by single-gene inborn errors of immunity. He revealed single-gene mutations that create 'holes' in the immune system of children who are susceptible to specific infectious diseases, yet remain normally resistant to other infectious agents.
Dr. Casanova's research started with a simple question: what is it that makes some children develop a severe clinical illness in the course of infection while others exposed to the same microbe remain unharmed? In path-breaking research, he discovered that single-gene lesions in children can confer selective vulnerability to certain infectious illnesses. Until these discoveries, single-gene lesions were only thought to underlie rare Mendelian traits, predisposing affected children to multiple infectious diseases--the classical primary immunodeficiencies.
The Heberden Society, which seeks to promote an interest in the history of medicine, was founded at the medical center in 1975. With funding from the WCMC Office of the Dean, the Society sponsors a series of lectures each academic year.
Please join us on Wednesday, September 9, at the New York Academy of Medicine.