Class Notes

Cell Discovery

June 7, 2013

I am writing to send some news that may interest Deerfield.
I discovered 2 new “white” cells in the immune system while a
Professor of Surgery at the University of Minnesota. I named these
2 cells M1 and M2 because they are macrophages. This discovery
followed from findings I had made several years earlier while a
Professor at Brown University while trying to determine why a
macrophage (which means “big eater”) could seemingly both fight
infections, or, help heal wounds ­ 2 very different functions. I
found that 2 different types of macrophages were actually responsible
for these different activities. In particular, M1 produced killer
molecules while M2 macrophages produced molecules that promoted
repair and cell proliferation. The discovery of M1/
M2 was published in 2000 (Mills, et al. M-1/M-2 Macrophages and the
Th1/Th2 Paradigm. Journal of Immunology. 164:6166). Not unlike a
painting that initially doesn¹t sell, it took some time for M1/M2 to
“sell” ­ for medical research to recognize its impact. It now has.
My 2000 Journal of Immunology Paper is one of the most highly cited
papers in medicine in the last decade. Which translates to it being
a major discovery. One of the most important areas where
M1/M2 has had an impact is cancer. In particular, cancer cells
require help to form tumors (to grow). And, instead of fighting
cancer, the immune system actually promotes cancer growth. The
reason is that cancer cells keep macrophages in “M2” mode so they
will produce molecules that promote proliferation ­ much like they do
in helping a wound heal.

I cannot say that my scientific success specifically occurred
because I went to Deerfield (Class of ’70). However, my one year
there was influential for the quality and diversity of talented
people I became acquainted with. So, I am writing if it can be of
help to Deerfield students (or alumni) because I do believe that
medical research/medicine is critical to solving many modern disease

My family is no stranger to Deerfield. My father (Robert ’33), and
brothers (Curt ’60 and Doug ’63) all attended. As a sidebar, as a
‘PG’, I helped Deerfield to one of its most successful basketball
seasons ever (only one loss, away at Worcester).

My brother, Doug, will be there for his 50th Reunion this year.
My 40th Reunion in 2010 was a great time. You may recall the girl on
our dorm. ’70 Still Rocks’. I brought that.

Charlie Mills

Class of 1970