US & Canada

Joseph Murray, US organ transplant pioneer, dies at 93

July 2004 file photo of Dr Joseph E Murray
Image caption Dr Joseph Murray was a religious man who viewed his work as a "prayer"

Dr Joseph Murray, who won the Nobel prize for his pioneering work in human organ transplants, has died aged 93.

It was in December 1954 that Dr Murray successfully transplanted a kidney between identical twins for the first time.

His work paved the way for tens of thousands of other successful human organ transplants.

Dr Murray died at the same Boston Hospital where he had performed the ground-breaking surgery.

He had learned his craft during World War II, treating badly burned soldiers.

By performing skin grafts on troops, he realised the biggest obstacle in the procedure was the immune system's rejection of foreign tissue.

Deeply religious

Working at Boston's Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, he and colleagues managed to successfully transplant kidneys on dogs.

In 1954, using the new surgical techniques, he took the healthy kidney of 23-year-old Ronald Herrick and transplanted it into his identical twin, Richard, who had kidney failure. Richard lived another eight years.

In 1962, with the arrival of drugs to suppress the immune response, he completed the first successful organ transplant from an unrelated donor.

Dr Murray shared the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Dr E Donnall Thomas, a pioneer in bone marrow transplants.

Dr Murray was a deeply religious man. He told the Harvard University Gazette in 2001: "Work is a prayer. And I start off every morning dedicating it to our Creator."

He passed away on Monday at the facility - now called Brigham and Women's Hospital - where he made medical history.

He had suffered a stroke on Thursday night at his suburban Boston home, hospital spokesman Tom Langford told the Associated Press.