March 2011
Volume 52, Issue 3
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Lecture  |   March 2011
Introducing Rachel R. Caspi, The 2010 Recipient of the Friedenwald Award
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science March 2011, Vol.52, 1872. doi:10.1167/iovs.10-6910
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      James T. Rosenbaum; Introducing Rachel R. Caspi, The 2010 Recipient of the Friedenwald Award. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2011;52(3):1872. doi: 10.1167/iovs.10-6910.

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Immunologists believe that the immune system contributes to every disease. With regard to the eye, uveitis, allergic conjunctivitis, dry eye, scleritis, orbital inflammation, and optic neuritis are obvious examples. But macular degeneration and some forms of glaucoma may also be immune mediated. Outside the eye, atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, the response to cancer, and Alzheimer's disease are each clarified by immunology. 
The eye is a fertile model for understanding the immune response, and Rachel Caspi is the world leader in understanding the immunology of the eye. 
At the 1987 meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, she and her colleagues described a novel mouse model, experimental autoimmune uveitis (EAU). Adapting this model to mice has proven a seminal advance. EAU is unquestionably the most studied uveitis model in the world. It changed the paradigm that could be used to understand uveitis. 
What shaped Rachel's personality to allow her to achieve as she has? 
Her determination may have come from her father, who survived World War II by fighting in the Russian army and subsequently served as Technical Director of the Gdansk Shipyards. Or maybe it came from her mother, who survived World War II by fighting for the Polish underground. 
Rachel was born in Poland and moved with her family to Israel when she was eight. After serving mandatory time in the Israeli military, she did her thesis work at Bar Ilan University, mentored by Professor Ramy Avtalion. She studied the immune system of carp, which, according to Rachel, makes her an expert on the immunology of “gefilte fish.” 
Rachel and her husband, Ehud, have two Israeli-born children, Eylon and Amir. Each has now earned a PhD, one in computer science and the other in physics. 
In the 1980s, Rachel came to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to join Bob Nussenblatt. The world of ocular immunology has not been the same since. She has teamed with many collaborators, but perhaps none more so than Bob, Chi Chao Chan, and Igal Gery. Together, this group has played a dominant role in ocular immunology. 
In addition to describing the mouse model of EAU, one of Rachel's early successes was a study published in Science in 1988 on the immunosuppressive effects of Müller cells, the first publication on immune regulation by eye-resident cells. She has contributed numerous publications since, which were published in ocular as well as in the general immunology literature, and recently has had a series of papers in the prestigious Journal of Experimental Medicine, including a study that carefully compared the uveitogenic effects of so-called Th1 cells with Th17 cells. Her observations forced a rethinking of the dogma concerning these T cell subsets and concepts about many autoimmune disease models, not merely uveitis. 
Manfred Zierhut, president of the International Uveitis Study Group, established an annual prize for the outstanding contributions to uveitis in clinical or basic science. Since its inception, no group has been honored more than Rachel's. 
Rachel is an incredible friend, mentor, and colleague. She is known, admired, and feared for her insightful questions that mark almost every scientific meeting that she attends. 
Awarding a prize to an individual always neglects the contributions of many deserving scientists, but Rachel Caspi has succeeded in ushering ocular immunology into a new and sophisticated era. In so doing, she is nonpareil. 
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