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Fowl Science

September 14, 2018

Studying a gland from the rear ends of chickens led to key insights into the immune system.


Chickens lead the way to an unusual discovery.(capri23auto/Pixabay)

Chickens lead the way to an unusual discovery. (capri23auto/Pixabay)


Chicken bottom science. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

At the far end of the poultry digestive system is a little blob called the bursa of Fabricius. For centuries, quite understandably, scientists ignored it. But in the mid-1950s, poultry scientist Bruce Glick’s curiosity and persistence led to his discovery that it was the source of humoral immunity, according to agricultural scientist Sonny Ramaswamy.

SONNY RAMASWAMY (Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities):

Humoral immunity is really what we refer to as antibodies.


That led to insights about the immune system true not only for poultry, but for humans as well.


It is at the basis of what we do today in terms of cancer treatment and the development and deployment of vaccines.


Glick died in 2009, but this week at the Library of Congress, his work is receiving a Golden Goose Award, celebrating remarkable discoveries coming from unlikely places. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon