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Richet, Charles

injected anaphylaxis study dogs

(1850–1935) French physiologist: first investigator of anaphylaxis.

Richet qualified in medicine in Paris, and became professor of physiology there from 1887. About 1900 Prince Albert of Monaco suggested that he study the poison injected into its victims by the Portuguese man-o-war. By chance Richet found that dogs injected with the toxin were most strongly affected if they had been injected previously: akin to a reversal of the situation in immunization against tetanus or diphtheria. These hypersensitive dogs on re-injection suffered bronchospasm and a dramatic fall in blood pressure, sometimes fatal. He named this effect anaphylaxis: it is now known to result from the injected antigen combining with the already activated immunoglobulin (IgE) of mast cells or basophils, which causes them to release histamine: this produces the observed effects. In humans susceptibility is variable, and anaphylactic shock is most often seen with wasp or bee stings; it can be combated by early injection of adrenalin. Richet won the Nobel Prize in 1913 for his wide-ranging study of anaphylaxis.

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