Luc Montagnier a prominent virologist whose contributions to understanding the nature of viruses lead to a significant advance in cancer research. Montagnier is also known for discovering the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
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Luc Montagnier Wiki
18 August 1932
Chabris, Région Centre, France
|Alma mater||University of Paris|
|Known for||Discoverer of HIV|
Luc Montagnier, from the Institut Pasteur in Paris, has dedicated his career to the study of viruses. He is perhaps best known for his 1983 discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which has been identified as the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). However, in the twenty years before the AIDS epidemic began, Montagnier made many important discoveries about the nature of viruses.
He made important contributions to understanding how viruses can alter the genetic information of host organisms and made significant advances in cancer research. His research on interferon, one of the body’s defenses against viruses, also opened avenues for medical cures for viral diseases. Montagnier’s ongoing research focuses on the search for a vaccine or cure for AIDS.
Montagnier was born in Chabris (near Tours), France, the only child of Antoine Montagnier and Marianne Rousselet. He became interested in science in his early childhood through his father, an accountant by profession, who conducted experiments on Sundays in a makeshift laboratory in the basement of the family home.
At the age of fourteen, Montagnier himself conducted experiments with nitroglycerin in the basement laboratory. His desire to contribute to medical knowledge was also fueled by the long illness and death of his grandfather from colon cancer.
Montagnier attended the Collège de Châtellerault, and then the University of Poitiers, where he received the equivalent of a Bachelor of Natural Sciences in 1953. He continued his studies at Poitiers and then at the University of Paris, obtaining his Bachelor of Science in 1955.
As Assistant to the Faculty of Sciences in Paris, he taught physiology at the Sorbonne and in 1960 he obtained the title of doctor of medicine. He was appointed a researcher at the Center National de la Recherche Scientifique (C.N.R.S.) in 1960, but then went to London for three and a half years to conduct research at the Medical Research Council in Carshalton.
Viruses are agents that consist of genetic material surrounded by a protective protein coat. They are completely dependent on the cells of a host animal or plant to multiply, a process that begins with the shedding of their own protein coat.
Carshalton’s virus research group was investigating ribonucleic acid (RNA), a form of nucleic acid that is normally involved in obtaining genetic information from deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) (the main carrier of genetic information) and its translation into proteins. . Montagnier and F. K. Sanders, investigating viral RNA (a virus that carries its genetic material in RNA instead of DNA), discovered a double-stranded RNA virus that had been produced by replicating a single-stranded RNA.
The double-stranded RNA could transfer its genetic information to DNA, allowing the virus to encode itself in the genetic makeup of the host organism. This discovery represented a significant advance in knowledge about viruses.
From 1963 to 1965, Montagnier conducted research at the Institute of Virology in Glasgow, Scotland. Working with Ian MacPherson, he discovered in 1964 that agar, a gelatinous extractor from a red algae, was an excellent substance for growing cancer cells. His technique became standard in labs investigating oncogenes (genes that have the potential to make normal cells turn cancerous) and cell transformations. Montagnier himself used the new technique to search for carcinogenic viruses in humans after his return to France in 1965.
From 1965 to 1972, Montagnier worked as the laboratory director of the Institut de Radium (later called Institut Curie) in Orsay. In 1972 he founded and became director of the viral oncology unit at the Institut Pasteur. Motivated by his findings at Carshalton and the belief that some cancers are caused by viruses, Montagnier’s basic research interest during those years was in retroviruses as a possible cause of cancer. Retroviruses have an enzyme called reverse transcriptase.
Montagnier established that reverse transcriptase translates the genetic instructions of the virus from the viral form (RNA) into DNA, allowing the genes of the virus to become permanently established in the cells of the host organism. Once established, the virus can begin to multiply, but it can only do so by multiplying the cells of the host organism, forming malignant tumors.
Additionally, in collaboration with Edward De Mayer and Jacqueline De Mayer, Montagnier isolated messenger RNA from interferon, the cell’s first defense against a virus. Ultimately, this research allowed the cloning of interferon genes in a quantity sufficient for research. However, despite widespread hopes that interferon is a widely effective anticancer drug, it was initially found to be effective in only a few rare types of malignant neoplasms.
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), a tragic epidemic that emerged in the early 1980s, was first adequately characterized around 1982. Its main characteristic is that it disables the immune system by which the body defends itself against numerous diseases. Eventually it is fatal. By 1993, more than three million people had developed full-blown AIDS. Montagnier believed that a retrovirus could be responsible for AIDS.
The researchers had noted that a pre-AIDS condition involved persistent enlargement of the lymph nodes, called lymphadenopathy. Obtaining a tissue culture from the lymph nodes of an infected patient in 1983, Montagnier and two colleagues, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Jean-Claude Chermann, searched for and found reverse transcriptase, which is evidence of a retrovirus. They isolated a virus they called LAV (lymphadenopathy associated virus).
Later, by international agreement, it was renamed HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. Once the virus was isolated, it was possible to develop a test for antibodies that had been developed against it: the HIV test. Montagnier and his group also discovered that HIV attacks T4 cells that are crucial in the immune system. Montagnier and his colleagues discovered a second similar but not identical HIV virus called HIV-2 in April 1986.
Controversy developed over the patenting of the HIV test in the mid-1980s. Robert C. Gallo of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, announced his own discovery of the HIV virus in April 1984 and received the proof patent. The Institut Pasteur claimed the patent (and the proceeds) based on Montagnier’s earlier discovery of HIV. Despite the controversy, Montagnier continued to research and attended numerous scientific meetings with Gallo to share information.
The intense mediation efforts of Jonas Salk (the scientist who developed the first polio vaccine) led to an international agreement signed by the scientists and their respective countries in 1987. Montagnier and Gallo agreed to be recognized as co-discoverers of the virus, and the two governments agreed that the benefits of HIV testing be shared (most go to a foundation for AIDS research).
However, the scientific dispute continued to resurface. Most HIV viruses from different patients differ by six to twenty percent due to the remarkable ability of the virus to mutate. However, Gallo’s virus was less than two percent different from Montagnier’s, raising the suspicion that both viruses were from the same source. The labs had exchanged samples in the early 1980s, reinforcing the suspicion.
The charges of scientific misconduct by Gallo led to an investigation by the National Institutes of Health in 1991, which initially acquitted Gallo. In 1992, the investigation was reviewed by the newly created Office of Investigation Integrity. The ORI report, published in March 1993, confirmed that Gallo had in fact “discovered” the virus that Montagnier sent him.
It could not be established whether Gallo had been aware of this fact or not in 1983, but it was found that he had been guilty of misrepresentations in reporting his research and that supervision of his research laboratory had been disjointed. The Institut Pasteur immediately revived its claim to the exclusive right to patent the HIV test.
However, Gallo objected to the ORI’s decision and took his case before an appeals board of the Department of Health and Human Services. In December 1993, the board acquitted Gallo of all charges, and the ORI subsequently dropped the charges from him for lack of evidence.
Montagnier’s ongoing work includes investigating the envelope proteins of the virus that link it to the T cell. He is also heavily involved in researching possible drugs to combat AIDS. In 1990, Montagnier hypothesized that a second organism, called mycoplasma, must be present with the HIV virus for the latter to become deadly. This suggestion, which has proven controversial among most AIDS researchers, is the subject of ongoing research.
Luc Montagnier also wrote The Virus and Man (Odile Jacob, 1994). This book explains how AIDS has transformed not only his life, but also his scientific orientation. It also explains how AIDS research can help scientists understand and better treat other conditions.
Montagnier married Dorothea Ackerman in 1961. They have three children, Jean-Luc, Anne-Marie, and Francine. He has described himself as an aggressive researcher who spends a lot of time in the laboratory or traveling to scientific meetings. He likes swimming and classical music, and he loves to play the piano, especially Mozart sonatas.
Luc Montagnier Coronavirus Pandemic controversies
Montagnier argued that the Coronavirus disease 2019 was man-made in a laboratory and that it might have been the result of an attempt to create a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. His allegation came after the United States had launched a probe into whether the virus came from a laboratory.
According to Montagnier, the “presence of elements of HIV and germ of malaria in the genome of coronavirus is highly suspect and the characteristics of the virus could not have arisen naturally.
“ Initially, this was described as “a conspiracy vision that does not relate to the real science” by Jean-Francois Delfraissy, an immunologist and head of the scientific council that advises the French government on the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, admitted on May 11, 2021 that he is no longer convinced that the COVID-19 pandemic originated naturally.