Dr. Leonard Arthur Herzenberg took the lead in developing a flow cytometer called the Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorter (FACS) that automatically sorts viable cells by their properties. Combining fluorescent-labeled monoclonal antibodies as FACS reagents with this instrument, he made an enormous contribution towards the dramatic advancement of life sciences and clinical medicine.
Cell sorting: automated separation of mammalian cells as a function of intracellular fluorescence, Science 166: 747-749 (Hulett, H. R., Bonner, W. A., Barrett, J. and Herzenberg, L. A.), 1969.
Fluorescence activated cell sorting, Review of Scientific Instruments 43: 404-409 (Bonner, W. A., Hulett, H. R., Sweet, R. G. and Herzenberg, L. A.), 1972.
Fluorescence-activated cell sorting, Scientific American 234: 108-117 (with Sweet, R. G.), 1976.
Fetal cells in the blood of pregnant women: detection and enrichment by fluorescence-activated cell sorting, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 76: 1453-1455 (with Bianchi, D. W., Schroder, J., Cann, H. M. and Iverson, G. M.), 1979.
Evolutionary conservation of surface molecules that distinguish T lymphocyte helper/inducer and cytotoxic/suppressor subpopulations in mouse and man, Journal of Experimental Medicine 153: 310-323 (Ledbetter, J. A., Evans, R. L., Lipinski, M., Cunningham-Rundles, C., Good, R. A. and Herzenberg, L. A.), 1981.
Genetics, FACS, immunology, and redox: a tale of two lives intertwined, Annual Review of Immunology 22: 1-31 (with Herzenberg, L. A.), 2004.
Dr. Leonard Arthur Herzenberg is an immunologist and geneticist who took the lead in developing a flow cytometer called the Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorter (FACS) that automatically sorts viable cells by their properties and collects them. He came up with the idea of an instrument that sorts viable cells by their properties while searching for ways to investigate the functions of T-cells and B-cells, two major types of lymphocytes. Organizing a handpicked team of scientists and engineers, he modified a particle separator that fractionated particles by size, which had been developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. With a primitive model they developed, in 1969 they became the first to successfully sort fluorescent-labeled cells that were still functional after collection. They continued improving the instrument and they successfully built a commercial version in early 1970’s with cooperation from a medical products company, which was subsequently distributed world-widely. This technique made dramatic progress when it incorporated fluorescent-labeled monoclonal antibodies specific to cell surface antigens. This instrument accurately measures fluorescence intensity reflecting cell properties, forward-scattered light reflecting cell size, and side-scattered light reflecting cell’s internal structure of individual fluorescent-labeled cell. Based upon these data, each viable cell in a droplet is sorted aseptically and collected separately.
FACS is used for the entire range of life sciences, from basic to medical science including stem cell biology. In the field of clinical medicine, for example, FACS is used to investigate the pathological condition of HIV infected patients and to diagnose hematopoietic malignant tumors, typically leukemia. Thus, FACS has made colossal contributions within the fields of biotechnology and medical technology. The arrival of this groundbreaking flow cytometer made it possible to count cells with specific functions out of an estimated 60 trillion cells in our body, and isolate molecules from as a single sorted cell. FACS has been applied to not only genomic science research, such as separation of specific chromosomes followed by the construction of a DNA library from each chromosome. More recently, it is essential to proteomics analysis of specific cells, thereby underpinning the continuous progress of post-genomic research.
There are many disciplines in life sciences that could not have developed as they have up until today without FACS, and it is no exaggeration to say that FACS is one of the monumental innovations within the fields of biotechnology and medical technology. His contribution in this regard thus deserves the highest recognition.
For these reasons, the Inamori Foundation is pleased to present the 2006 Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology to Leonard Arthur Herzenberg.
“If you understand everything,” says an old Japanese proverb, “you must be misinformed.” This is a lesson a good scientist must never forget. True, we have decoded DNA, mapped the human genome, and even made some diseases disappear from the face of the earth. In my own limited area of expertise, the FACS instruments we developed have opened the way to stem cell transplantation, to curing leukemia and to unraveling many other secrets of the single cell. Yet, even as we think we know so much, a young scientist in my laboratory has just discovered an entirely new kind of immune cell, different from all those we have known before.
When I was a young student blowing things up with my chemistry set or learning the mysteries of corn seeds and fruit flies at Brooklyn College, I might have indulged the fantasy that science would, in time, lead us to understand everything. But now I hope I know better. As our knowledge expands and as we develop new technologies that we cannot now imagine, our students and their students will always find more questions than they can answer. Our existential pursuit will never end. This is the joy and the strength of science, which we must once again defend against the irrational attacks of religious zealots who think they already know the ultimate Truth.