Sunday, June 15, 2014
Thomas H. Weller
Enders was working on growing viruses in culture. Viruses, unlike bacteria, are unable to reproduce on their own, so strictly speaking they are not living organisms. Viruses require a host cell in order to reproduce. Each cell has a mechanism by which it reproduces itself. Viruses take over this mechanism and use it to produce more viruses. Viruses grown in the laboratory must be grown in a cell culture. Different viruses infect and use different types of cells to reproduce. Enders and Weller were studying which types of cultured cells could be used to grow different types of viruses. Working with Enders, Weller was the first to be able to grow poliovirus in culture. Poliovirus enters humans via the the cells of the alimentary canal and migrates to other cells. It can infect motor neuron cells causing paralysis. For their development of the ability to cultivate the poliovirus Weller, Enders, and Frederick C. Robbins were awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. With the ability to grow poliovirus in culture Jonas Salk was able to create a vaccine for polio and the disease has virtually been eliminated.
In 1954 Weller was appointed the Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Tropical Public Health, which he remained until 1983. In addition to his work growing polio virus, Weller also isolated and grew varicella virus (the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles). He was also able to grow rubella and cytomeglovirus. Weller was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1964. Weller was made professor emeritus in 1984.
Weller died on August 23, 2008.
McIntosh, Kenneth; "Thomas H. Weller:1915-2008"; National Academy Press; 2011
Roache, Christina; "Thomas H. Weller, Nobel Laureate, Professor Emeritus, Dies"; Harvard School of Public Health press releases; August 26, 2008
Thomas Weller Nobel Biography
Thomas Weller Wikipedia Entry