It is one hundred years since the discovery of the blood thinning drug heparin, which is still used today. Jay McClean, who was a medical student at the time, presented a paper at the Society of the Normal and Pathological Physiology at the University of Pensylvania reporting his discovery of an anticoagulant extracted from liver, hence the name Heparin (Hepa meaning liver).
At the moment I am travelling in Scandinavia and there is a close link between the development of heparin and this part of the World. The purification of heparin to make it suitable for human use took place in three places, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Toronto, and some of the earliest clinical studies were carried out in Scandinavia. A surgeon called Clarence Craaford in Stockholm had a reputation for performing surgery to remove large pulmonary emboli, the only life saving treatment available at the time. Craaford had heard of this new agent and asked to use some for his patients. In August 1935 he was the first person to use heparin to prevent blood clots after surgery. In 1937 he published a paper showing that Heparin almost completely prevented blood clots after surgical procedures. It is a shame that we still have trouble persuading some surgeons to use prophylaxis now.
Craaford worked at the Sabbatsberg hospital in Stockholm. It is no longer a hospital but the building is best known for two reasons; it is where the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was taken after he was shot in 1986 and subsequently died, and where some scenes were shot for the film, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.