Retina Foundation 19531954

When Bandi had established himself in Boston, he wrote and asked me if I would like to work in his laboratory. The offer was very tempting and the best time would be immediately after the course of surgery. An interruption of my medical studies at this point of time would not be deleterious as the remainder could be carried out in a less rigid time sequence. Thus, I accepted to come in the beginning of 1953. The only problem at that time was that by then I had a girl friend; one of my class mates in medical school, Ulla Hellsing.

We got engaged in February 1953. A few days later, I left for USA on a cargo ship from Stockholm harbor only 2 km from my parents' home. After a rough crossing of the Atlantic I ended up in Portland Maine, where Bandi and two of his laboratory assistants picked me up. Half a year later, Ulla followed me on a regular passenger ship to New York. We got married on her arrival, and after a short visit to Boston we made our honeymoon trip in a Greyhound bus over the American continent.

Retina Foundation, founded by Charles Schepens, was housed in an old apartment building in the Italian district of North Boston not far from Massachusetts General Hospital and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. The building was rather dilapidated and the whole district was torn down a few years later. The value of the equipment in the laboratory exceeded many times the value of the building itself.

Although Schepens had employed people and equipped a machine shop for construction of optical instruments and also employed a skilled electron microscopist, it was Bandi who had taken over most of the enterprise and occupied the main part of

1See also chapter on E. Jorpes by V. Mutt and M. Blomback in Volume 41 of this series and that on P. Edman by B. Blomba¬ę ck in this volume.

the house. He had started a large program to study the composition and turnover of the vitreous body of the eye by various techniques. The rationale for this topic was the presumed importance of the vitreous body in the formation of retinal detachments, the speciality of Schepens. In recruiting staff to the laboratory, Bandi had a preference for Hungarians and Swedes.

John Gergely was one of Bandi's Hungarian friends. He was a biochemist at Massachusetts General Hospital and was studying muscular contraction. Gergely had equipment for measuring light-scattering from macromolecules, a technique which had gained interest in USA but not yet reached Sweden. I learnt the technique from Gergely and we characterized hyaluronan from umbilical cord and showed that it had a molecular weight of several millions and behaved as a somewhat stiff random coil in solution. The resulting paper became a corner stone of my doctoral thesis [2]. In a subsequent paper I isolated hyaluronan from the bovine vitreous body and showed that it had a much lower molecular weight and was highly polydisperse.

When Ulla came we both became engaged in two aspects of Bandi's characterization of the vitreous body, the variation in composition between different species and the development of the vitreous in the cattle eye. For the first project we had to collect eyes from many animals including squid, turtles, frogs, various birds, and various mammals. I remember especially one Saturday when we were alone in the lab and there came a shipment of bullfrogs from Wisconsin. We did not know what to do with them so we put them in the tub in one of the bath rooms in the house. On Monday morning when the laboratory technicians opened the door to the bath room all the frogs jumped out to their horror. In collecting cattle fetuses, I had to stand at the slaughter house and wait for pregnant cows on the line to catch their wombs. This was disapproved of by the butchers as it interfered with their work and they threw hooves at me to keep me away.

It was time for us to break up from Boston in the summer of 1954 and go back to Stockholm and medical school.

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