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Levine, Philip

Levine, Philip


Many of Philip Levine's greatest contributions to the fields of serology and forensic science occurred when he was working with the Nobel Prizewinning Austrian immunologist Karl Landsteiner (18681943). Together, they sought evidence in their research that there were more than the ABO blood groups previously identified by Landsteiner.

Levine was born in a small village in Polish Russia in 1900. He moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York, when he was eight years old. Levine grew up in New York, graduated from City College, and went to Cornell Medical School. After graduation from medical school and completion of a Master's Degree, he accepted a position at the Rockefeller Institute as an associate (eventually, assistant) to pathologist Karl Landsteiner, with whom he worked for seven years.

Landsteiner and Levine believed, based on blood transfusion reactions occurring when persons of the same blood type were transfused, that there were more blood groups than A, B, AB, and O. They embarked on research aimed at discovering additional blood groups. The pair immunized rabbits with human red blood cells from forty-one different types of human sera. Of those, four were found to have a distinctive agglutinin, meaning they caused reactions that were different than those of A, B, AB, or O blood groups. Through the course of their work, the distinct properties and inheritance patterns of M, N, S, s, and P were described.

The M, N, and S antigens are typically found on red blood cells. Antibodies to M are relatively common; they are the most often found antibodies in children who have never received transfusions. Antibodies against N are almost nonexistent. Anti-M antibodies can be found in individuals who have received multiple transfusions, as well as in women who have had more than one live birth; they are almost never associated with hemolysis of red cells. Antibodies against S and most of the M, N, and S antigens have been associated with both hemolytic transfusion reactions and with hemolytic disease of the newborn.

Landsteiner and Levine discovered the P blood group through their continuing search for additional blood groups. Most of the anti-P antigens they identified were only cold reactive, so were therefore not of major concern in transfusion. P system antigens are common and are naturally occurring. As a result, many of the antibodies to P system antigens result from immune response to other organisms.

Levine went on to become a bacteriologist and serologist, and in 1935 he accepted a position at Beth Israel Hospital in New York. There, he studied Rh factors; this was to become his greatest scientific contribution. His work on Rh incompatibility between mothers and newborns more fully explained transfusion reactions occurring in individuals transfused with their own blood type, and laid the groundwork for future successful organ transplantation surgery.

Philip Levine's discovery and detailed study of the M, N, S, and P blood groups, as well as his research concerning the Rh factor, has had a tremendous impact on the field of forensic science, due in large measure to the dramatically increased ability both to specify paternity and to pinpoint the connection between a blood sample and an individual crime victim or perpetrator via the use of progressively more refined (and defined) blood group typing.

see also Antibody; Antigen; Blood; Paternity evidence.

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