Philosophical Society of Washington

The Once and Future History of the Idea of Autoimmunity

Paul Plotz
National Institutes of Health

2244th Meeting Abstract
Friday, November 7, 2008 at 8:15 PM


Tracing the intellectual history of a research project, trying to find a direct path from where we are now - back through all the knowledge and discoveries - to the point where research on a certain thing actually started, is often difficult. In this presentation, the origins of the concept of autoimmunity, diseases in which one type of antibody (proteins that attach to harmful substances in the body so that the immune system can destroy them) — called autoantibodies — attach to the body's own healthy tissues by mistake, will be presented. Possible future developments based on this concept will also be explored.

Paul Plotz

About the Author:

Paul Plotz is the Acting Chief of the Autoimmunity Branch, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) at the National Institutes of Health. He received his M.D. in 1963 from Harvard Medical School (Cum Laude for Thesis “Studies on the Actions and Interactions of Streptomycin and Penicillin”). He did his internship and residency in medicine at the Beth Israel Hospital, rheumatology training in the Arthritis and Rheumatism Branch (ARB), National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), and his post-doctoral research as a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow at Mill Hill in the United Kingdom. He returned to the ARB in 1970 as a Senior Investigator, and he currently serves as the Chief, Connective Tissue Diseases Section (since 1984) and the Chief, Arthritis and Rheumatism Branch (since 1994). In addition to his own Lab/Branch positions, he has also served as: the Acting Scientific Director and Acting Clinical Director, NIAMS (2005), Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director for Science, NIH (2006-present), and Acting Deputy Director, NIAMS, NIH (2007-present). In addition, he is a Part-time Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (2005-present). Since returning to NIH in 1970, he has studied research questions on autoimmune diseases.

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