A History of Immunological Research

The University of Chicago Medicine has long been at the forefront of immunological research and care. Immunology research milestones include:

  • In the 1940s, UChicago researcher Leon Jacobson, MD, performed the first bone marrow transplant in a laboratory model.
  • In the 1950s, UChicago researcher Donald Rowley, MD, demonstrated the critical role of the spleen in antibody production.
  • In the 1980s, we began the first pediatric bone marrow stem cell transplant program in the Chicago area.
  • In the 1990s, UChicago established the Gwen Knapp Center for Lupus and Immunology Research to support a multidisciplinary approach for studying autoimmunity and the immune system as well as basic, translational and clinical research.

Continuing to Pioneer Immunology Research

Today, the University of Chicago has the largest National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded immunology research program in the region. Our scientists are working to:

  • Study how certain cells (T- and B-lymphocytes, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, and neutrophils) protect us against aggressive bacterial, fungal and viral infections.
  • Understand how specific genetic defects induce immunodeficiency in children. These studies not only facilitate diagnosis but also have the potential to lead to new therapies for these potentially fatal conditions.
  • Examine new immunotherapies and their potential for treating primary immunodeficiencies.
  • Create new methods for recognizing immunodeficiencies in children and adults.
  • Identify how subtle signs of infection can be used to identify patients with immune deficiencies.
  • Explore new approaches to transplant for primary immunodeficiency. For example cord blood and haploidentical (half-match) parental transplants have recently become available, providing treatment options to all children who require a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.

These and other basic and clinical research initiatives inform and support the care we give to children with primary immunodeficiency disorders.