Jon van RoodBMJ 2017; 358 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4152 (Published 08 September 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j4152
- Tony Sheldon
- Utrecht, the Netherlands
Johannes Joseph “Jon” van Rood’s eureka moment arrived when, after bleeding during childbirth, a patient had a severe reaction to a blood transfusion. She insisted that she had never had a transfusion before; this pregnancy was, however, her sixth. Another doctor may not have thought further, but for van Rood, head of the blood bank at Leiden University Hospital, this was an eye opener. Could her reaction be the result of leucocyte, or white blood cell, antibodies that had formed through immunisation during her previous pregnancies, and not, as was previously thought, through blood transfusions? Van Rood immediately asked for blood samples from all women who had delivered a baby at the hospital.
“It’s there, if you want to see it”
He described this entry into transplantation immunology as “a beautiful case of serendipity,” although a former colleague paraphrases the Netherlands’ famous footballer Johan Cruyff, saying: “It’s there, if you want to see it.”
The eventual significance for transplantation medicine would be huge. Van Rood, with others, would begin to unravel the complexities of the human leucocyte antigen (HLA) system that triggers the immune response. Organ and bone marrow transplantation could become a practical reality—and thousands …