Charles Richet and Anaphylaxis

Charles Richet

Charles Richet

On August 26, 1850French physiologist and Nobel Laureate Charles Robert Richet was born. Initially, he investigated a variety of subjects such as neurochemistry, digestion, thermoregulation in homeothermic animals, and breathing. He coined the term “anaphylaxis” meaning “against protection” to describe the subject of his research, when he found a second vaccinating dose of sea anemone toxin caused a dog’s death. Charles Richet won the Nobel Prize “in recognition of his work on anaphylaxis” in 1913.

Charles Richet was born in Paris as the son of Alfred Richet, Professor of Clinical Surgery at the local Faculty of Medicine. Charles became a doctor of medicine himself in 1869 and almost ten years later, doctor of sciences. He was appointed professor of physiology in the late 1880s at the Faculty of Medicine, Paris. Richet became the editor of the ‘Revue Scientifique’ in 1878 and the co-editor of the Journal de Physiologie et de Pathologie Générale in 1917. During his career, Charles Richet published works on physiology, physiological chemistry, experimental pathology, normal and pathological psychology. In the field of physiology, Richet worked on a mechanism of the thermoregulation in homeothermic animals and in the field of experimental therapeutics, Charles Richet performed experiments on vaccination and tuberculosis.

However, Charles Richet is best known for his research on anaphylaxis. In his experiments, Richet injected a dog with sea anemone toxin in an attempt to protect it. Even though the dog had previously tolerated the toxin, after re-exposing it three weeks later, the dog developed anaphylaxis. Thus instead of inducing tolerance (prophylaxis), when lethal responses resulted from previously tolerated doses, he coined the word anaphylaxis – without protection. He was subsequently awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

At yovisto you can learn more about our immune system in the TED talk of Laurie Garret.

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