Monday, May 10, 2010

Mark Falcon Lesses - medical research

My grandfather, Mark Falcon Lesses, was a doctor who did research in a number of areas of medicine. I discovered, through the miracle of the internet, that it's possible to find several of his articles. Here are some links:

1927, Archives of Internal Medicine, Glycolysis in Normal and in Leukemic Blood

1928, JAMA, The Vegetarian Diet (a letter to the editor)
To the Editor: In a recent editorial you conclude that "optimal nutrition of human beings cannot be obtained with purely vegetarian diets," on the basis of experimental feeding of such diets to rats. May I note two important exceptions to this conclusion?

1. With regard to human beings, Hindhede demonstrated clearly in his lecture given at the Third Race Betterment Conference held at Battle Creek, Mich., in January, that optimal nutrition of human beings can be secured on such a simple regimen as potatoes and vegetable margarine even if continued for several years. Furthermore, he presented valuable evidence to show that children of the school age may grow and be in proper nutrition with vegetables as the only source of protein. Hindhede has worked solely with man rather than with the rat and perhaps that is why we disregard his work.

2. The second point has to do with feeding of a vegetarian diet to a rat. The failure of a rat to grow optimally on such a diet may mean either (a) that the diet is adequate but that the rat has not eaten enough of it to grow properly—Lusk has pointed out that, ceteris paribus, growth proceeds proportionally to ingested calories—or (b) that the diet is inadequate although the rat has eaten enough calories.

The rejection in part or in whole of a thoroughly adequate diet by a rat is not uncommon ; the rat demands "flavor" in the food just as do we. In The Journal, Nov. 19, 1927, p. 1770, Cogwill presents striking evidence of the adequacy of a cereal diet for the rat from the standpoint of growth and nutrition. One of the diets, which yielded 93 per cent of if s calories in the form of cereals, also contained 3 per cent of liver and gave excellent growth and nutrition. It is true that a small amount of animal protein was thereby included, but the effect of such a small amount probably lay more in the "flavor" it lent to the diet rather than to any other significant contribution. Rats do prefer diets containing even small amounts of liver or beef protein, especially the former. In other words, vegetable diets or any other diet will fail with rats if they do not happen to like it well enough to ingest the proper calories. We should not confuse the flavor of a diet with its nutritional adequacy.
Mark Falcon-Lesses, M.D., Department of Nutrition, University Hospital, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
1930, Journal of Nutrition - The Cause of the Laxative Action of Bran

1930, JAMA, The Menace of the Meat Diet (a letter to the editor)
To the Editor:

In a recent editorial (Is a Meat Diet a Menace? The Journal, September 20, p. 866) you conclude by inference that a meat diet will not injure the kidneys and cite the observations at the Russell Sage Institute of Pathology on two arctic explorers as experimental support for your views. So far as I can see, the only conclusion properly deducible from these observations is that an average intake of meat protein of from 100 to 140 Gm. daily for one year causes no detectable kidney damage. What might happen after two or more years on such a diet remains unknown.

The experiment of Newburgh, Falcon-Lesses and Johnston (Am. J. M. Sc. 179:305 [March] 1930), in which evidence of kidney damage in man was obtained on a diet containing 330 Gm. of meat protein per diem in less than six months, indicates that renal injury may be caused by diets sufficiently high in meat protein. Further, Newburgh and his co-workers (Newburgh and Curtis: Arch. Int. Med. 42:801 [Dec] 1928) have succeeded in producing chronic nephritis in laboratory animals by high meat diets.

However, it remains to be determined (1) whether the animal nephritis produced by meat protein is pathologically analogous to chronic nephritis in man, (2) whether human beings ordinarily, or even occasionally, eat enough meat protein to cause chronic nephritis, and (3) whether the meat consumption of patients with chronic nephritis has been at such levels as might cause nephropathy. Meat protein might cause chronic nephritis and yet not be the usual etiologic agent because not ingested at appropriate levels.

In contrast to the studies of Thomas and Heinbecker, who found no unusual incidence of kidney disease among Eskimos, must be placed the investigations of Hindhede, who finds that chronic nephritis is most common in people who eat much animal food.

The entire problem, I believe, should be kept sub judice until the foregoing questions are more fully answered.

Mark Falcon-Lesses, M.D., Boston.
1938, JAMA - Bezedrine Sulfate (a letter to the editor). The first paragraph is:
To the Editor:—

No one who has the advance of medicine and the safety of the public at heart can fail to agree with the main tenets of the editorial which appeared in THE JOURNAL March 19 entitled "Benzedrine Sulfate—A Warning." No powerful drug should be sold over the counter, nor should it for any purpose whatsoever be self administered. This reproach does not apply, of course, merely to benzedrine sulfate but to the wide and indiscriminate use of bromides, barbiturates and even the apparently innocuous vitamins.
1955, Diseases of the Thyroid Gland (written by Samuel L. Gargill and my grandfather, Mark Falcon Lesses, who was an instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the director of the blood bank at Beth Israel Hospital); it was published by Oxford University Press. The review in the Archives of Internal Medicine 46 (1957) is very complimentary:
Drs. Gargill and Lesses have drawn from their clinical experiences over the past 25 years in order to present this comprehensive and well arranged text which encompasses three important eras in thyroid disease....
1965, JAMA - Transfusion Complications

In the April 11, 1938 edition of Life magazine, he had a letter published:
Botticelli's Young Man


The "limpid flexibility" of the fingers in Botticelli's Portrait of a Young Man, reproduced in your issue of March 21, is much more obviously due to the arthritis which the subject of the portrait suffered from rather than to playing the lute. Very characteristic is the spindle-shaped deformity of the middle joints of the fingers. I happen to have a copy of the portrait myself and have had many physicians comment on the arthritic deformity of the hand of this young man.

• Doctors are given to less romantic theories than artists. Neither can speak with certainty in this case. -- ED.
An article on antidepressants in A Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry (by Edward A. Shorter, Oxford University Press published in 2005) cites a work by my grandfather on the use of amphetamines for the treatment of obesity:
The amphetamines started to become drugs of abuse when they were widely prescribed for obesity; an article in 1938 by Mark Falcon Lesses (1903- ), a research associate at Boston State Hospital, and Abraham Myerson (1881-1948), director of research at the hospital, on "Benzedrine Sulfate as Aid in the Treatment of Obesity" in the New England Journal of Medicine launched this rather fateful evolution.
I haven't been able to find this article on line, but there is a New York Times article from 1938 on this research.