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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Nobel Laureate: Karl Landsteiner

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1930.

"for his discovery of human blood groups"

Karl Landsteiner won the Nobel Prize in 1930 for his discovery of the ABO blood groups. He showed that individuals could be A,B, AB, or O blood group and identified each type by their agglutinating properties. (He didn't actually discover type O - that came a few years after Landsteiner's original work on the AB types.)

His work is described in the presentation speech.
In order to avoid, in the publication of research on this subject, detailed descriptions which would otherwise be necessary - of the four blood groups and their appropriate cell structures, certain short designations for the blood groups and corresponding specific cell structures have been introduced. Thus, one of the two specific cell structures, characterizing the agglutinating properties of human blood is designated by the letter A and another by B, and accordingly we speak of «blood group A» and «blood group B». These two cell structures can also occur simultaneously in the same individual, and this structure as well as the corresponding blood group is described as AB. The fourth blood-cell structure and the corresponding blood group is known as O, which is intended to indicate that people belonging to this group lack the specific blood characteristics typical of each of the other blood groups. Landsteiner had shown that under normal physiological conditions the blood serum will not agglutinate the erythrocytes of the same individual or those of other individuals with the same structure. Thus, the blood serum of people whose erythrocytes have group structure A will not agglutinate erythrocytes of this structure but it will agglutinate those of group structure B, and where the erythrocytes have group structure B the corresponding serum does not agglutinate these erythrocytes but it does agglutinate those with group structure A. Blood serum of persons whose erythrocytes have structures A as well as B, i.e. who have structure AB, does not agglutinate erythrocytes having structures A, B, or AB. Blood serum of persons belonging to blood group O agglutinates erythrocytes of persons belonging to any of the groups A, B, or AB, but erythrocytes of persons belonging to blood group O are not agglutinated by normal human blood serum. These facts constitute the actual basic principles of Landsteiner's discovery of the blood groups of mankind.
By the time the Nobel Prize was awarded it was known that the ABO human blood types were genetic traits that segregated according to "Mendel's Laws."
The group characteristics are handed down in accordance with Mendel's laws. The characteristics of blood groups A, B, and AB are dominant, and opposing these dominant characteristics are the recessive ones which characterize blood group O. An individual cannot belong to blood group A, B, or AB, unless the specific characteristics of these groups are present in the parents, whereas the recessive characteristics of blood group O can occur if the parents belong to any one of the four groups. If both parents belong to group O, then the children never have the characteristics of A, B, or AB. The children must then likewise belong to blood group O. If one of the parents belongs to group A and the other to group B, then the child may belong to group A or B or it may possess both characteristics and therefore belong to group AB. If one of the parents belongs to group AB and the other to group O, then in accordance with Mendel's law of segregation the AB characteristic can be segregated and the components can occur as separate characteristics in the children. If a child has the A-group structure (either A or AB), then the A-group characteristic must be present in at least one of the parents, i.e. one of them must belong to group A or AB. If the child belongs to group AB, then one of the parents must belong to group A and the other to group B, or one of the parents must belong to group AB and the other to group A or B, or else both parents must belong to group AB. Application of the discovery of blood groups in questions relating to the establishing of paternity is based on these principles governing the hereditary transmission of blood groups.
See [ABO Blood Groups] for a modern description of the biochemistry.

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