Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Harvard celebrates first kidney transplant

In connection with Harvard's 375th anniversary, the Gazette is taking note of some key events:  A transplant makes history--Joseph Murray’s 1954 kidney operation ushered in a new medical era

"“If you’re going to worry about what people say, you’re never going to make any progress,” Murray said during a recent interview at his home in Wellesley Hills, Mass."
"After the operation, Murray’s work on transplantation continued. Despite his success with the Herricks, the problem of rejection generally still presented a high hurdle.
In the years that followed, Murray used first X-rays and then drugs to suppress the immune system and keep the body from rejecting the grafted tissue, but there were few successes. Through those dark years, he and his colleagues pressed on, inspired by the dying patients who volunteered for surgery in hopes that, even if they didn’t make it, enough could be learned that success would come one day.
“We were trying. In spite of several failures, we felt we were getting close,” Murray said. “It’s difficult to translate the optimism of the Brigham staff and hospital. The administration really backed us.”
Finally, in 1962, in collaboration with scientists from the drug company Burroughs-Wellcome, Murray tried a drug, Imuran, on 23-year-old Mel Doucette, who had received a kidney from an unrelated cadaver donor. The success of that operation and the anti-rejection drug cleared the final hurdle to widespread organ transplantation between unrelated donors, and set the stage for the many refinements and breakthroughs by others in the years to come."

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