Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 30, 2012

Michael Woodruff

October 30, 1960: Dr. Michael Woodruff performs the first kidney transplant in the UK. Organ transplantation is the moving of an organ from one person to another or from one place in the body to another in the same person for the purpose of replacing the recipients damaged or missing organ. The biggest stumbling block was the rejection of the tissue when supplied by a non-genetically identical donor. The first reliable mention of transplantation was a skin allograft (from one person to another) that took place in India in the second century BC. The first successful corneal allograft was done in 1837 but it was done on a gazelle. The first successful human corneal transplant took place in 1905. During World War I, skin grafting was greatly improved.

The first kidney transplant took place in 1950 when 44-year-old Ruth Tucker received a cadaver kidney. Her body eventually rejected the implanted kidney, but by that time, her other kidney had recovered functionality and she was able to live another five years. The first successful kidney transplant took place in 1954 between identical twins. Rejection was an issue not yet solved and the identical DNA of the twins subverted the problem. On this day, Dr. Woodruff also used identical twins for the first kidney transplant in Edinburgh. By 1964, drugs were available to prevent and treat acute rejection making more transplants possible. However, it was still imperative that tissue matches be as close as possible. The relative ease of the procedure and the fact that living donors can be used has made the procedure more common today.

Dr. Woodruff was born in London in 1911. His father was a veterinarian and moved the family to Australia. Michael studied engineering and mathematics in college, but because of the Great Depression, decided there would be limited job opportunities with that degree. Therefore, he opted to go on to study medicine. He was one of four students from Melbourne who was able to pass the exam for Royal College of Surgeons and finished his degree in 1937. He enlisted in the Medical Corps during World War II. He was eventually captured and made a prisoner of war by the Japanese and remained captive for three and a half years.

In 1957 he was appointed Chair of Surgical Science at the University of Edinburgh. He split his time between practicing medicine and teaching. His group’s principal investigation centered around immunological tolerance, the basis for tissue rejection, and immune responses to cancers in a variety of animals. He is best remembered for this kidney transplant between identical twin 49 year olds. Both twins survived the procedure and his patient lived for an additional six years before dying of an unrelated disease.

Dedicated researchers seek better treatments and cures for diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s and every form of cancer. But these scientists face an array of disincentives. We can do better. – Michael Milken

I had been living with dialysis for three years or so, and the new kidney felt like a reprieve, a new gift of life. I felt alive again and I guess that has had an effect on my use of colour. – Peter Wright

Individuals with kidney disease who are able to obtain treatment early experience a higher quality of life and are able to maintain more of their day-to-day activities, including keeping their jobs. – Xavier Becerra

I think we can allow the therapeutic uses of nuclear transplant technology, which we call cloning, without running the danger of actually having live human beings born. – David Baltimore

Also on this day:

“Isn’t there … anyone?”– In 1938, the radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds led to panic in the streets.
Europe and Asia Linked – In 1973, the first Bosphorus Bridge was completed.
Rebuilding – In 2005, the rebuilt Dresden Frauenkirche was reconsecrated.