Dr. Fritz Bach, a former University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher and physician who played a key role in the first bone-marrow transplant, died Sunday at the age of 77 according to this UW Health news release.
The release states Bach became convinced that a range of life-threatening ailments could be cured via a bone marrow transplant, which boosts the immune system and restores normal marrow function for individuals with various diseases. But first, someone with the right genetic "match" had to be found as a donor.
Bach was an assistant professor of genetics at UW-Madison in 1965 when he developed a test to identify individuals who were a genetic match for organ transplantations.
In 1968, a 2-year-old boy diagnosed with Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome -- a deadly disease that causes unstoppable internal bleeding -- was the first to receive a bone-marrow transplant. It was Bach's lab which determined that the boy's 9-year-old sister was a match, enabling this first procedure to take place.
UW Hospital now does more than 100 bone-marrow transplants each year, and most major hospitals across the world have bone-marrow transplant units. People with certain leukemias that were always fatal in the past now have roughly a 60 percent survival rate if they are eligible to receive a matched bone-marrow transplant.
For more information on Bach's remarkable life and career, check out the UW Health piece, which notes he wrote more than 800 scientific articles for well-known publications including Science, Nature and the New England Journal of Medicine.