- Snell, George Davis
▪ 1997U.S. immunogeneticist (b. Dec. 19, 1903, Bradford, Mass.—d. June 6, 1996, Bar Harbor, Maine), was a winner (with Baruj Benacerraf and Jean Dausset) of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for research into the genes that determine proteins located on the surface of cells that control the body's immune response to foreign tissue grafts. This work enabled transplant surgeons to make better matches between organ and tissue donors and the intended recipients and thereby reduce the threat of graft rejection. Snell conducted his experiments at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, where he spent most of his professional career studying mammalian genetics. He was educated at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. (B.S., 1926), and Harvard University (Sc.D., 1930). After graduating he received a National Research Council fellowship to work at the University of Texas at Austin with the future Nobelist Hermann J. Muller, who was using X-rays to produce mutations in the chromosomes of fruit flies. In 1935 Snell moved to the Jackson Laboratory and studied X-ray-induced mutations in mice. In the 1940s he changed his focus to the genetics of organ and tissue transplantation, collaborating with British geneticist Peter Gorer. In experiments carried out in mice, the two scientists identified the chromosomal location of genetic factors responsible for tissue rejection. The group of proteins that these genes encode, called the major histocompatibility complex, is found in all higher vertebrates, where it plays an extremely important role in the rejection of not only foreign tissue grafts but also many other foreign substances. Snell was credited with coining the term histocompatibility (histo, from the Greek word meaning "web," denotes tissue). He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1952 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1970.
* * *▪ American geneticistborn Dec. 19, 1903, Bradford, Mass., U.S.died June 6, 1996, Bar Harbor, MaineAmerican immunogeneticist who, with Jean Dausset (Dausset, Jean) and Baruj Benacerraf (Benacerraf, Baruj), was awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his studies of histocompatibility (a compatibility between the genetic (genetics) makeup of donor and host that allows a tissue graft from the former to be accepted by the latter).Snell graduated from Dartmouth College in 1926 and received a Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard University in 1930. During 1931–33 he studied under the geneticist Hermann J. Muller (Muller, Hermann Joseph) at the University of Texas. In 1935 he joined the staff of the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, where he remained, becoming senior staff scientist in 1957, until his retirement in 1969.At Bar Harbor, Snell, who was already immersed in mouse genetics, began to focus on the genetics of transplantation. His collaboration with British geneticist Peter Gorer led to the identification of a group of genes in the mouse called the H-2 gene complex, a term Snell coined to indicate whether a tissue graft would be accepted (the H stands for histocompatibility). Those histocompatibility genes encode cell surface proteins that allow the body to distinguish its own cells from those that are foreign—e.g., cells of a tissue graft or an infectious microorganism. The work resulted in the discovery of the major histocompatibility complex, a genetic complex found in all vertebrates that is analogous to the H-2 complex. Recognition of those genes paved the way for tissue and organ transplantation to become successful.Snell was the author of a number of books, including Histocompatibility (1976), which he wrote with Jean Dausset and Stanley G. Natheson.
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