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Jean Lindenmann Dies

Jean Lindenmann, a co-discoverer of interferon, has died, according to the New York Times. He was 90.

Lindenmann was a postdoc working with Alick Isaacs at the National Institute for Medical Research in London in 1957 when they found that cells treated with dead viruses could ward off infection by live viruses. In response to these dead viruses, the researchers discovered that the cells secreted a substance, which they dubbed interferon, that repelled infection.

After returning to the University of Zurich, Lindenmann studied why some mouse strains were more susceptible than others to influenza and, again, homed in on a role for interferon. In this case, the Times notes, interferon activated a gene in the resistant mice to produce a protein that protected them from the flu.

Interferon has since been used to treat certain cancers and other diseases, though it is too toxic to be used for routine infections.

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