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Innovations and pioneering ideas

A number of the drugs and treatments that now help people all over the world started as ideas here at the University. Other new ideas have started on the exciting journey towards wider use. Here are twelve examples.

Detail, top of dialysis machine. Photo from Region Skåne’s medical history collection
The dialysis machine has its origins in research at Lund University. Detail image showing the upper part of a Swedish-produced device from 1949.

 

1926 | The first respirator

Physiologist Torsten Thunberg constructed the barospirator, the first device for artificial respiration. By increasing and decreasing the air pressure around the patient, the machine could press air in and out of the lungs. The barospirator paved the way for several subsequent constructions, which became increasingly successful.

Respirator from the 1950's. Photo from Region Skåne’s medical history collection
This model of respirator from the 1950s brought welcome help to polio patients with facial paralysis, among others.

 

1946 | The artificial kidney

The world’s first clinically usable artificial kidney was developed by professor of medicine Nils Alwall. Together with industrialist Holger Crafoord, he founded the global company Gambro (later acquired by Baxter) in 1964; three years later the first artificial kidney was launched.

1953 | Ultrasound diagnostics

Physicist Hellmuth Hertz and cardiologist Inge Edler were the first in the world to observe a heart beating. Together, the two researchers had developed the first echocardiogram for ultrasound examination of the heart, a technology that would prove revolutionary to diagnostics. Edler and Hertz were nominated several times for the Nobel Prize, but had to be satisfied with the next best thing – the American Lasker Award.

1956 | Treatment of haemophilia

Physician and researcher Inga Marie Nilsson discovered a protein that causes the blood to coagulate and that would come to be of great use to haemophiliacs. The substance contained what would later be known as the von Willebrand factor. The drug used in the treatment was produced in Stockholm in collaboration with chemists Birger and Margareta Blombäck.

1960 |  Better work environment with measurement methods for lead

In 1960, Birgitta Haeger Aronsen, professor of occupational medicine, publicly defended her doctoral thesis on measurement methods for monitoring lead absorption. Her measuring methods came to be of great significance for work hygiene in activities involving exposure to lead.

1967 | Nicorette

Professor Claes Lundgren and his colleague Stefan Lichtneckert discovered that chain smokers could avoid abstinence problems by chewing tobacco. The discovery convinced them that the need to smoke depended on addiction to nicotine and both physicians invested in developing an alternative to chewing tobacco. The result became Nicorette – the world’s first nicotine drug to help smokers quit the habit.

1969 | New x-ray contrast media

Radiology professor Torsten Almén developed new types of non-ionic x-ray contrast media. Unlike previous variants, which could directly harm the patient, Almén’s contrast media were harmless and significantly less painful. Currently, around 45 million people get an injection of contrast media every year – in other words more than one injection per second.

1991 | Proviva

In the 1980s, together with colleagues at the University, Professor Bengt Jeppsson started researching lactobacilli and the gastrointestinal tract which later resulted in the well-known health drink Proviva.

1993 | Test for risk of blood clots

Björn Dahlbäck, researcher in clinical chemistry, revolutionised blood clot research with new knowledge about why the phenomenon occurs. Dahlbäck discovered one of the most important hereditary causes of the formation of blood clots, known as APC resistance, and published the findings for the first time. Tests to detect APC resistance are now used all over the world to assess the risk of thrombosis.

1995 | Cancer-killing molecule – HAMLET

A research team led by Professor Catharina Svanborg discovered that a component in human breast milk kills tumour cells without damaging mature, healthy cells. Experiments and investigations have shown that the effect depends on the most common protein in breast milk, alfa-lactalbumin, but in a new form as a complex with a fatty acid. The biological complex is called HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made LEthal to Tumour cells). Clinical tests are now underway in the company Hamlet Pharma.

2009 | Treatment of pre-eclampsia

Professors of medicine Bo Åkerström and Stefan Hansson discovered that free foetal haemoglobin is harmful if it leaks into the mother’s blood circulation. This led to an idea about how to cure pre-eclampsia – the disease that kills one woman in world every third minute. A clinical treatment is now under development.

2013 | Instrument för cancer diagnostics - Endodrill

Lund researcher Charles Walther invented the Endodrill, an instrument for safer and simpler cancer diagnostics. In a physician’s hand, the instrument enables faster and simpler examination while providing a more complete diagnostic result.

Ultrasound equipment. Photo from Region Skåne’s medical history collection
Using this device, which was originally lent by Siemens, Inge Edler and Hellmuth Hertz developed the world’s first usable technique for echocardiography.

Main sources:
LU Innovation, Lund University, “350 years of useful research”
Stefan Ersgård et al., "Från lazarett till universitetssjukhus - Malmö 1896-1996"
Håkan Westling, "Medicinska fakulteten vid Lunds universitet 1668-2003" 

Images: Region Skåne’s medical history collection

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