Fritz Bach: Physician whose work enabled the first successful bone-marrow transplant

Fritz Bach worked in genetics, immunology and vascular biology, but was widely regarded as one of the pioneers in transplant research.

He developed a cellular test to facilitate the first successful bone marrow transplants, which subsequently enabled hundreds of thousands worldwide to live normal healthy lives. He further developed techniques to improve patients' chances of surviving bone marrow and organ transplants.

Although Georges Mathé, a French oncologist, performed the first bone marrow transplants in 1959 on five Yugoslavian nuclear workers whose own marrow had been damaged by radiation, these transplants failed. This became a recurring problem with the procedure. Bach decided to set up a mini-transplant in a test tube and his test paved the way for assessing immune compatibility between individuals; the more likely, the less the possibility of rejection. His seminal work took cells from the patient who needed a transplant and cells from a potential donor and mixed them together; he showed that they reacted to one another in a similar way to how one would expect them to react in the transplant setting. He called his technique the Mixed Leukocyte Culture Test, or MLC, and in the 1960s began to apply his approach to bone marrow.

Doctors began to apply the technique to select the most compatible relatives of patients to be transplant donors. In 1968, Bach used the technique to select donors for the first successful clinical bone marrow transplants; these were carried out in parallel at the Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin respectively. Dr Robert A. Good saved the life of a five-month-old boy, born with a bone marrow defect, then Bach and his team operated on a two-year-old boy who bled constantly and suffered repeated infections. In both cases, bone marrow from a sister was used for the transplant.

Bach continually honed this process, expanding it from bone marrow to other body parts and greatly speeding up the technique. By 1975, he had developed a way to complete his analysis in hours, rather than days. This greatly benefitted the transplant of cadaver kidneys which need to be used within 48 hours before decomposing. Bach's test led to further research on how the human immune system responds to the Major Histocompatibility Complex, a system of surface proteins on cells that define each person's unique immunity.

Other research interests included transplanting pig tissues (xenotransplantation) into humans; however, in 1998 Bach became the public voice of caution, urging the scientific community to include the public in decisions about the use of animal cells and organs in humans. Disturbed by the possible ramifications of such work, which could include the introduction of serious diseases to humanity, he called for a moratorium on using pig cells and organs to treat people until a public commission could be created to gauge the dangers.

Born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria on 5 April 1934, Fritz Heinz Bach was the younger of two brothers. Following the Nazi pogrom, known as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), against Jews, their homes and businesses throughout Nazi Germany and Austria between 9 and 10 November 1938, Bach and his brother fled to England through the Kindertransport, a rescue mission that helped 10,000, predominantly Jewish children, be repatriated in British families. Though the boys were later reunited with their parents in Bath, their grandparents perished in the Holocaust.

In 1948, sponsored by an American GI, the family immigrated to the US and settled on the east coast in Vermont. Bach won a scholarship to Harvard, where he graduated with a degree in physical science in 1955, before moving on to study medicine at Washington University. In 1960, he completed his M.D. at Harvard Medical School, Boston, where he became interested in immunology and genetics. After post-doctoral studies, Bach lectured at the University of Wisconsin and led a research team from 1965 to 1980. Thereafter, he taught and conducted research at the University of Minnesota before returning to Harvard to teach in 1990. From 2001, Bach was appointed the Lewis Thomas Distinguished Professor at Harvard Medical School.

Bach, a prolific writer, published more than 800 scientific papers and received numerous national and international awards, including the Established Investigator Award from the American Heart Association. In 2005, Bach's life turned full-circle when he returned to Austria to receive an honorary degree, Honoris Causa, from the University of Vienna.

Bach died after a heart attack at his home in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, aged 77. He is survived by his two wives, Marilyn Lee Brenner and Jeanne Elizabeth Gose, both marriages ending in divorce, and their five children and four grandchildren.

Fritz Bach, doctor/scientist: born Vienna, Austria 5 April 1934; married 1958 Marilyn Lee Brenner (two children), 1983 Jeanne Elizabeth Gose (three children); died Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts 19 August 2011.

News
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Sport
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities