Working with grasshoppers, fruit flies, mice and human cells, the three scientists who won this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine opened important windows on how all these creatures defend themselves against microbial invaders and refrain from attacking their own cells – except when they don't.
It's intricate and complicated stuff, but the two main concepts you need to know are: innate immunity and adaptive immunity.
Note: This report contains an offensive racial epithet. It is an essential part of the story, however.
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LYNN NEARY, host: Three scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their work on understanding the immune system. However, it turns out one of the scientists died several days ago, which could mean that he was not eligible for the prize. Joining us now is NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton.
Thanks for joining us, Jon.
JON HAMILTON: Good to be here.
NEARY: Let's start with this scientist who died. Who was he, and why might his death make him ineligible for the Nobel Prize?