14 Mar, 2021

Paul Ehrlich – the founder of chemotherapy

Paul Ehrlich was born on March 14, 1854 in the city of Strehlen (now Poland), into a wealthy Jewish family. Paul’s interests were influenced in early childhood by his grandfather, who lectured on physics and botany at local educational institutions.

In 1872 Paul entered the University of Breslau. But after studying for one semester, he transferred to the University of Strasbourg, where his great talent for chemistry manifested itself, although formally he did not study it. Two years later, he returned to Breslau and completed the bulk of the work required to obtain a medical diploma, which he was awarded at the University of Leipzig in 1878.

After completing his studies, Ehrlich worked in various fields of medical biology, chemistry, experimental pathology and therapy. During this period, he created a way to distinguish between individual forms of leukocytes. He expressed the idea that cells responsible for immune responses have antigen-recognizing structures on their surface – receptors. This discovery played an important role in the development of hematology and immunology.

Beginning in 1891, Ehrlich began to develop methods of treating infectious diseases using chemicals. He established the fact that microorganisms acquired resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. Ehrlich’s worldwide fame was brought by the “drug 606” (salvarsan) developed by him, which proved to be highly effective in the treatment of syphilis.

In 1901, Paul Ehrlich began to work on the problem of malignant tumors. He proposed many laboratory reactions that are important for clinical practice. The Nobel Prize was awarded to him (together with II Mechnikov) for his work in the field of immunology.

Paul Ehrlich died on August 20, 1915 in Bad Homburg (Germany).