Stem cell pioneer - Dr Edward Boyse
Edward Arthur Boyse, who died recently, realised that every placenta that was tossed out after a delivery was rich in blood stem cells. In 1989, when he was 66, he experimented with extracting and freezing these stem cells over different lengths of time and showed that the cells would survive long periods of freezing. Dr Boyse had the idea that when patients’ bone marrow was severely damaged by chemotherapy, and their own stem cells had been destroyed, they could be replaced by the stem cells of placenta or umbilical cord blood.
This is now routine practice and has saved many lives. He also discovered the different types of T lymphocytes, including the killer and helper functions of the different types.
Dr Boyse did most of his work in America at the New York University Medical School and the Sloan-Kettering Institute of Cancer Research. Born in Worthing, he went to Worthing Grammmar School, joined the RAF at age 17, and qualified as a flying instructor. He trained as a doctor at St Bartholomew’s. He kept fit by running and digging his garden.
Dr Boyse is one of the many people who, visibly and invisibly, have been making contributions to our country, our world, and our health and happiness.