Biography of Harald Zur Hausen

Biography of Harald Zur Hausen

Harald zur Hausen was born on March 11, 1936 in Gelsenkirchen-Buer, Germany. He studied Medicine at the Universities of Bonn, Hamburg and Dusseldorf and received his M. D. in 1960. After his internship he worked as postdoc at the Institute of Microbiology in Dusseldorf, subsequently in the Virus Laboratories of the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia where he was later appointed as Assistant Professor.

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After a period of 3 years as a senior scientist at the Institute of Virology of the University of Wurzburg, he was appointed in 1972 as Chairman and Professor of Virology at the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg. Harald zur Hausen is a pioneer of medical virology. His work concentrates early persistent infections with DNA viruses. This focus of interest quite naturally led him to a study of herpesviruses. He was the first to demonstrate the DNA of Epstem-Barr Virus in Burkitt’s lymphoma cells that do not produce the complete infectious virus.

He showed that Epstein-Barr virus DNA was present in Burkitt tumor tissue and in the tissue of another tumor, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, in multiple genome equivalents per cell. In 1977 he moved to a similar position to the University of Freiburg. From 1983 until 2003 he was appointed as Scientific Director of the Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (German Cancer Research Center) in Heidelberg. He retired from this position in 2003. He received a number of national and international awards, among them the Robert-Koch-Price, the Charles S.

Mott Price of the General Motors Cancer Research Foundaton, the Federation of the European Cancer Societies Clinical Research Award, the Paul-Ehrlich-Ludwig Darmstatter-Price, the Jung-Price, Hamburg, the Charles Rudolphe Brupbacher Price, Zurich, the Prince Mahidol Award, Bangkok, the Raymond Bourgine Award, Paris, the Coley-Award, New York, the Life Science Achievement Award of the American Association for Cancer Research, San Diego, the German Special Order of Merit with Star and the Nobel-Prize for Medicine, 2008.

He received 15 honorary MD amd Ph. D. doctorates from the Universities of Chicago, USA, Umea, Sweden, Prague, Czech Republic, Salford, UK, Helsinki, Finland, Erlangen-Nurnberg and Wurzburg, both Germany, Ferrara, Italy, Buenos Aires, Argentine, Madrid, Spain, Melbourne, Australia, Salerno, Italy, Los Angeles, USA, Madrid, Spain, and Jerusalem, Israel.. I think it is great that Harald zur Hausen first went to school as a Medical Assistant, and progressed in such a way he discovered a disease that a lot of women are affected today.

If it was not for him, a lot the percentages of death would be much higher than they are today. In the late 1970s, scientists believed that viruses cannot cause cancers. It was a fact back then. In the early 1980s, this was challenged by the prevailing topics of research during that decade. The majority of researches during that decade were about herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) as the causative agent of cervical cancer. HPV during the 1980’s was only known to be the cause of genital warts and not of cervical cancer.

In 1972, Harald zur hausen was appointed chairman of the Institute of Clinical Virology in Erlangen-Nurnberg. During this time, he received different reports stating that there exists malignant wart conversion into squamous cell carcinomas, cervical cancer. This then triggered the idea that the cause of genital warts, Human Papilloma Virus or HPV can be the cause of cervical cancer. In 1974, he conducted a pilot study that revealed that there are different types of papilloma viruses. In the following years, he was able to isolating increasing number of Human Papilloma Virus novel subtypes.

In 1979, his co-researchers Lutz Gissmann and Ethel-Michele de Villiers were successful in cloning the first DNA from a genital wart, HPV-6. Following HPV-6, they discovered HPV-11. They used HPV-11 as a probe and one out of 24 cervical cancer biopsies turned out to be positive. In these biopsies, unknown faint bands became visible suggesting that a different subtype of HPV is related to the cancer. The unknown bands were asked to be cloned and in 1983 and 1984, they were able to isolate HPV-16 and HPV-18 respectively.

HPV-16 DNA was found to be present in 50% of all cervical cancer biopsies while HPV-18 was found to be present in 20% of the cases. These figures proved that HPV-16 and 18 play an important role in cervical cancer development. More than 500,000 women per year are affected by Cervical Cancer. More than 5% of all cancers worldwide are caused by a persistent infection of the Human Papilloma Virus or HPV. There are already more than 100 HPV types that are known to men and 40 of these infect the genital tract, out of the 40, 15 HPV types put women at high risk for cervical cancer.

HPV as noted to be seen in 99. 7% of all cervical cancers in the world. There are two available vaccines in the market today, Cervarix by GlaxoSmithKline and Gardasil by Merck. Both of these vaccines protect against the infection of both HPV-16 and 18. But Gardasil also protects against HPV-6 and 11 which causes genital warts. These vaccines are recommended to 11 and 12 year-old girls and also to 13-26 year-old females. Both vaccines are delivered 3 times over six months and it is recommended that you take the same brand for the three doses.

The vaccines provide little benefits if you are already infected with HPV. It also has no therapeutic effects on existing HPV infections. SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS Most people with HPV infections do not manifest symptoms. In more than 90% of infections, the virus is naturally clear from the body within two years. But sometimes, HPV can cause genital warts or worse, cervical cancer. Note that the type of HPV that causes genital warts is different from the type of HPV that causes cervical cancer. Cervical cancers usually do not have symptoms unless it is in the advanced stages.

This is the reason why women are advised to get regular cervical cancer screening to detect the cancer during its early stages. TREATMENT There are no treatments available for the virus; treatments are only available for the health problems that it can cause. Cervical cancer, like all the types of cancer is most treatable during its early stages so early diagnosis is the key. Women should get routine cervical cancer screening to detect the cancer even before it develops. The message is prevention is always better than treatment.

In conclusion, the discovery of Harald zur Hausen gave us the knowledge about HPV-16 and 18. This discovery paved the way to a greater understanding of cervical cancer. Furthermore, it led to the development of vaccines that are now found to be more than 95% effective in protecting women from HPV acquisition. I picked this topic because my best friend is infected with HPV and has cervical cancer, knowing how this was all discovered and how a new drug is introduced that can help stop the spread of HPV is amazing.


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