Mechnikov Ilya
Country France
Category Medicine
Year 1908

Mechnikov Ilya, 1845 - 1916, Year won 1908, A pioneer researcher of immunity..

Ilya Mechnikov was born in the Ukraine in 1845. He received his Ph.D. from the University of St. Petersburg and joined the staff there as a lecturer in Zoology and Anatomy. Later he moved to the University of Odessa, but following the persecution of the Jews after Czar Alexander’s murder, he left Russia and moved to Italy, and then to Paris, to the Institute Louis Pasteur. Mechnikov died in 1916 at the age of 71.

Ilya Mechnikov was awarded the 1908 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine together with Paul Ehrlich, “In recognition of their work on immunity.”

In observations that he made on transparent fish, Mechnikov noticed cells surrounding and swallowing foreign bodies that had entered the fish, with the intent of destroying them. He called these cells Phagocytes – devouring cells.

On the basis of this observation Mechnikov claimed that disease is actually a battle between foreign bodies, such as bacteria, and auto-policing cells. Cure of the body is achieved following the victory of the policing cells, and immunizing the body prevents the renewed outburst of the bacteria.

Mechnikov was the first to claim that devouring cells have an additional role: to engulf and destroy normal tissue that the body no longer needs.

Ilya Mechnikov’s discoveries on the role of the devouring cells have formed the basis for many immunological studies, and have changed the way we perceive the body’s struggle with disease.

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