Professor Jules Ernest Charles Traeger died peacefully in Lyon on May 25, 2016, aged 96 years. During his long and successful career at the University Hospital of Lyon, Professor Jules Traeger was not only a pioneer in the field of nephrology and transplantation, but also an avant-gardist visionary. Head of department and professor at a young age, he always surrounded himself with like-minded professionals who were ready to make the impossible possible. In the 1960s, he recognized the vital importance of hemodialysis, as an acute but also as a lifelong treatment. He thus developed the practice within specific dialysis centers and even at patient's home, with the possibility of it being done daily, which at that time seemed utopian. The life of a patient suffering from chronic renal insufficiency was consequently transformed, and “normal” life under dialysis became possible.
He integrated kidney transplantation into “classic” nephrology, a therapeutic approach considered experimental at that time. Thus, the first kidney transplant took place in Lyon in 1962 in the historical Hôpital Antiquaille situated on the hills of Lyon. The difficulty in obtaining organs for transplant at that time lead him, in 1964, to attempt xenotransplantation with organs from chimpanzees (both kidneys were transplanted in-bloc). However, kidney transplantation was only 1 aspect of this new revolutionary medicine. Diabetes was causing a lot of physical harm and was already 1 aspect of renal insufficiency and death. Jules Traeger predicted diabetes would become a major public health problem. He therefore thought of replacing a deficient pancreas by pancreas transplantation. In the 1970s, Lyon, together with Minneapolis, had been the world's centers for this type of miracle transplant. Of course, these major surgical achievements were only possible thanks to the brilliant dexterity of his young urologist colleague, Jean-Michel Dubernard, and the close collaboration of the diabetology department in Milan, directed by Guido Pozza.
However, a transplanted organ needed a specific treatment to prevent the rejection of the organism receiving it. Under the influence of other great pioneers of this time, Thomas Starzl, Anthony Monaco in the United States, and Michael Woodruff in Edinburgh, antilymphocyte sera were produced in Lyon in the record time of a few months. The lymphocytes came from the thoracic duct of patients waiting for a transplant, and later from thymocytes from fetuses. This approach had been used for the first time in 1966 in Lyon. These polyclonal antilymphocyte serum and antithymocyte globulin remains the most widely used treatment for prophylaxis of the rejection of a transplanted organ in the world today.
A great “Boss” is above all one who is able to transmit his knowledge to younger generations. Jules Traeger rigorously trained an uncountable number of medical doctors from all over the world. His unit was cosmopolitan, open, tolerant, and pragmatic. A great school of science and medicine was created under the leadership of Pr. Traeger. Beginning in 1968, a European Course preceded the annual ‘Cours International de Transplantation et d’Immunologie Clinique’ until its initiation in 1974 and for 25 years, brought together the most important figures of the world in the domain with aim of discussing and debating the progress of this new science. Within his unit, we found the most up-to-date, translational medicine, including fundamental research with an INSERM unit, a laboratory of large and small animals, interventional radiology, medical reanimation, operating theatres, and laminar flow rooms, all of these in the same building, the legendary Pavillon P of the Edouard Herriot Hospital.
He passed away peacefully in the calm of his home opposite the green ‘Tête d’Or’ park, in the balmy Lyon springtime, with his loving wife for 63 years at his side. Jules Traeger, the untiring worker, the passionate sailor, a photographer at heart, the classical music lover, and the fabulous doctor and research scientist, will always remain in our memories, our thoughts, and our acts.
In the name of the entire nephrology and transplantation community, I would like to express my deep gratitude and my sincerest and most profound condolences to his wife, Yvanne Traeger.