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.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
people
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

Graphic Design, Social Media and PR or Permaculture Internships in South Africa

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Work in Cape Town, South Africa for an NGO co...

Teach music or performing arts abroad

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Schools in developing countries struggle with...

Sports coaching volunteer jobs

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?