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First elected to the Brazilian Academy of Sciences of the United States

Recognized worldwide for his research on malaria, Ruth Nussenzweig developed a study of immunity against disease

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The medical Ruth Nussenzweig is the first Brazilian scientist to be elected as a member of the Academy of Sciences of the United States (NAS, its acronym in English), in 150-year history of the institution. The Brazilian representation in the NAS currently amounts to 13 scientists.

Professor in the Department of Parasitology, School of Medicine, New York University, Ruth works with her husband, also a researcher Victor Nussenzweig, since student days at the School of Medicine of the USP. "At that time we were just friends and worked on project Chagas disease. Cabulávamos lot of class," he said. Recognized worldwide for his pioneering research on malaria, a disease transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes infected with Plasmodium parasites, Ruth began developing an experimental model for the study of immunity against the parasite.

"She was the first to show immunity against Plasmodium sporozoite, one of the developmental stages of the parasite," said Momtchilo Russo, professor in the Department of Immunology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, USP.

In a study published in 1960, Ruth immunized mice with irradiated sporozoite, unable to multiply, and then the same animals infected with sporozoite normal removed from the mosquito's salivary gland, showing that the animals did not develop malaria. It was his first major contribution to the search for vaccines against malaria.

Then isolated the antigen responsible for protecting animals from disease, and from there went to work on vaccines and treatments. "The robust experimental model developed was the basis for the development of malaria vaccine that is more advanced at the time and has already been tested in humans, using the CSP antigen (circumsporozoite protein) isolated by it," explained Ricardo Gazzinelli, teacher the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).

For his pioneering work, Ruth has great influence in many areas of experimental biology including immunology, parasite biology and vaccine development. "His work in immunology serve as a guide for the development of a new generation of recombinant vaccines," said Mauricio Martins Rodrigues, a professor at the Federal University of São Paulo who did postdoctoral studies at New York University with Ruth Nussenzweig.

Always using techniques border, Ruth and his group were the first to clone a parasite antigen and produced the first monoclonal antibody against the parasite antigen, according Gazzinelli. Another legacy of the couple Nussenzweig for science, especially in Brazil, has been training for several students and postdocs who are now important leaders in immunology, vaccinology and parasitology.

Asked how reacted to receive the news of the election, Ruth, close to completing 85 years, said the award came a little late for me, but hopefully even animate the younger scientists.

"The statement should have occurred 20 years ago, but it certainly is a unique moment for Brazil," said Rodrigues.

Now the couple Ruth and Victor prepares to return to research in Brazil, after decades living abroad, in a project supported by the São Paulo Excellence Chairs (Spec), FAPESP pilot program that seeks to establish collaborations between state institutions São Paulo and high level researchers living abroad.

Rodrigues, one of the teachers who will work with the couple Nussenzweig in Brazil, says that they are always a great source of encouragement to younger scientists. "They never stop wanting to learn and discover new things, he said.

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Ruth Nussenzweig    Academy of Sciences of the United States    NAS    Department of Parasitology    School of Medicine    New York University    Plasmodium    Victor Nussenzweig    Chagas disease    Department of Immunology    Institute of Biomedical Sciences    USP    Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG)   
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