Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Death of a Pioneer and the British Connection

Today, the death of Joseph Murray was announced. He was 93 years of age. He was hugely influential in the evolution of solid organ transplantation and during my years in transplantation and transplantation research, his name and work cropped up frequently. The fact that he won the Nobel Prize reflected his contribution.
There is a strong British connection with this man. Sir Roy Calne, British surgeon, transplant pioneer, academic, artist etc worked with Joe Murray in Boston in the early 1950s. His work in Murray's lab  was the first to establish the fact that organ (kidney) rejection in dogs could be controlled by drugs - the birth of the immunosuppressive drug. The first drug was  6 Mercaptopurine, later changed to Azothioprine - still used today as an immunosuppressant.  In Cambridge, Roy Calne went on to be involved in the evolution of cyclosporine and with Randall Morris and Norman Shumway at Stanford, rapamycin or sirolimus. I was a cardiopulmonary transplant fellow in Cambridge in the early 1990s & I worked with Randy Morris and Norm Shumway in the lab at Stanford in the mid 1990s - hence the connection and interest! 

Gertrude Elion at Harvard Medical School with Dr. Roy Calne, Dr. George Hitchings, Dr. Donald Searle, Dr. Hager, and Dr. Joseph, Murray, and the dogs Tweedledum, Tweedledee, Titus, and Lollipop (recipient of the first successful foreign kidney transplant)

(courtesy of Jewish Women's Archive)