In writing this book we had several goals in mind. First, we wanted to provide a definitive resource for the subject of cell-mediated cytotoxicity – killer lymphocytes. We felt it would be useful to have a single volume that traces the history of this field, telling its story in terms of key experiments and ideas that have shaped research into the function and biological meaning of cells that kill other cells. At the same time, we wanted to integrate, where possible, the major themes coursing through this subject in its fifty or so year history. And finally, we felt it is time to assess the evidence for and against a role of killer lymphocytes in vivo.
Having worked actively in the field for over thirty years, we were still surprised by how extensive it has become. We estimate – admittedly somewhat loosely – that well over 100,000 papers have been published on various aspects of cell-mediated cytotoxicity (CMC) since it began. Our goal could not possibly be to cover all of this information. We have tried to identify those papers that were key to the origin of each of the many themes in CMC, and then to identify key recent reviews that allow anyone interested in a given sub-topic to work their way back through the existing literature as suits their needs. We have done our best to keep the number of papers cited to a minimum, consistent with that goal. We apologize in advance to our many friends and colleagues whose many excellent and important papers have not been cited here.
All scientific fields are works in progress, and even as we bring this project to a conclusion the field of CMC is morphing in new directions. It may be worth coming back in five years or so to update both new developments and our interpretation of the history of this fascinating field. We hope readers of this book will find it useful, and we especially hope they will feel free to communicate to us their own thoughts on what we have presented, and what we have not.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge the valuable assistance of Drs. Dalia Rosen, Judith Gan and Orit Gal-Garber, and Mr. Steven Manch, all of the Weizmann Institute, for invaluable assistance in preparation of this book.