Dr. William P. Murphy Jr., a biomedical engineer who was the inventor of the vinyl blood bag that replaced breakable bottles during the Korean War and made transfusions safe and reliable on battlefields, in hospitals and at the scene of natural disasters and accidents, died. Thursday at his home in Coral Gables, Florida. He was 100 years old.
His death was confirmed Monday by Mike Tomás, president and CEO of US Stem Cell, a Florida company of which Dr. Murphy was long president. He became president emeritus last year.
Dr. Murphy, the son of a Nobel Prize-winning Boston physician, was also widely credited for early advances in the development of pacemakers to stabilize irregular heart rhythms, artificial kidneys to cleanse the blood of impurities, and many sterile devices, including trays, scalpel blades, syringes, catheters and other surgical and patient care items that are used once and discarded.
But Dr. Murphy was perhaps best known for his work on the modern blood bag: an inexpensive, flexible, durable, sealed container made of polyvinyl chloride that disappeared with flimsy glass bottles and changed almost everything. when it comes to storage, portability and ease. of blood delivery and transfusion worldwide.
Developed with a colleague, Dr. Carl W. Walter, in 1949-50, the bags are lightweight, wrinkle-resistant and tear-resistant. They are easy to handle, preserve red blood cells and proteins, and ensure that blood is not exposed to air for at least six weeks. Blood banks, hospitals and other medical storage facilities depend on their longevity. Drones drop them off safely in remote areas.
In 1952, Dr. Murphy joined the United States Public Health Service as a consultant and, at the top of the military, traveled to Korea during the war to demonstrate, with medical teams, the use of pouches. blood to transfuse wounded soldiers. at aid stations near the front lines.
“It was the first major test of the bags under battlefield conditions, and it was an unqualified success,” Dr. Murphy said in a telephone interview from his home for this obituary in 2019. Over time , he noted, bags have become a mainstay. blood collection and storage networks of the American Red Cross and similar organizations overseas.
(For years, researchers have said that an ingredient in polyvinyl chlorides, diethylhexyl phthalate, or DEHP – used in the manufacture of building materials, clothing and many health products – poses a cancer risk to humans Since 2008, Congress has banned DEHP in children’s products in the United States; the European Union has required labels; and alternative chemicals have replaced DEHP in blood bags.)
In Korea, Dr. Murphy recalled, he saw military doctors reusing needles to transfuse patients, and medical instruments were often poorly sterilized. Alarmed by the dangers of infection, he designed a series of relatively inexpensive medical trays, equipped with sterilized drugs and surgical tools, that could be thrown away after a single use, greatly reducing the chances of cross-contamination of patients.
In 1957, he founded the Medical Development Corporation, a Miami company which two years later became Cordis Corporation, developer and manufacturer of devices for the diagnosis and treatment of heart and vascular diseases. With Dr. Murphy as chief engineer, president, CEO and chairman, Cordis produced what he called the first synchronous pacemaker.
As the use of implanted pacemakers became more common in the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Murphy said he found that the devices could be improved to respond not only to irregular heart rhythms – usually an abnormally beating slow – but also to signs of bleeding, tissue damage, blood clot formation or problems with the pacemaker electrode lead to the heart muscle.
These complications led him and his team to develop a new generation of peacemakers that could be externally programmed. From this effort came the first “dual demand” pacemaker of the 1980s, with probes into two of the heart’s chambers for a more complete picture of the organ’s activity and its creeping defects.
The Cordis advanced pacemaker contained a small computer that could detect heart problems and, in effect, have two-way electronic conversations with a cardiologist. The cardiologist could, in turn, design non-invasive solutions and program the computer to implement them.
Additionally, Dr. Murphy said, his team has developed better ways to virtually “see” inside the vascular system. His motorized pressure device precisely injected a small dose of liquid containing iodine for color into a selected container. There, the fluid appeared on an X-ray image, called an angiogram, opening a window into the nooks and crannies where blockages might be hiding.
To clear blockages, Dr. Murphy and a colleague, Robert Stevens, designed sterile vascular catheters, or probes, to access vessel blockages. (Today angiographic injectors have a space-age robotic look, with tiny cameras and lights in the probes and a television screen on the outside to guide the doctor through the tunnels.)
Under Dr. Murphy’s leadership, Cordis also ventured into artificial kidneys, which cleanse the blood of waste products that normally accumulate in the body. Vital to sustaining life, cleansing occurs when blood flows down one side of a membrane while a bath of chemicals flows down the other side. Impurities present in the blood pass through the tiny pores of the membrane and enter the bath and are removed.
Dr. Willem J. Kolff, a Dutch physician, made the first artificial kidney during World War II. It was a Rube Goldberg contraption: sausage casings wrapped around a wooden drum spinning in a saline solution. Dr. Murphy’s device used densely packed hollow fibers of synthetic resins as filters. Despite its ineffectiveness, it was widely used in portable or implanted artificial kidneys.
Subsequent advances in artificial kidneys and dialysis have enabled thousands of patients with kidney failure to access treatment and prolong their lives. But the mechanisms still do not match the efficiency of the human kidney; bioengineered kidneys remain a hope for the future.
Dr. Murphy retired from Cordis in 1985 to pursue other commercial medical interests. By that time, he held 17 patents, had written about 30 articles in professional journals, and received the Distinguished Service Award from the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology. He received the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2008.
William Parry Murphy Jr. was born November 11, 1923 in Boston. His father, a hematologist, shared the 1934 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for a study that showed a raw liver diet could lessen the effects of pernicious anemia. Her mother, Harriett (Adams) Murphy, was the first woman to become a licensed dentist in Massachusetts.
William Jr. and his older sister, Priscilla, grew up in the Boston suburb of Brookline. As a teenager, Priscilla became the nation’s youngest qualified female pilot, but she died soon after when a small plane crashed in a snowstorm near Syracuse, New York, during a nighttime medical assistance flight from Boston.
Fascinated by mechanics since his childhood, William designed a gas-powered snow blower, the design of which he sold to a company.
After graduating from Milton Academy in Massachusetts, he studied pre-med at Harvard, where his father taught, and graduated in 1946. He received his medical degree from the University of Illinois in Chicago in 1947. While studying mechanical engineering for a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he developed a film projector to display enlarged x-ray images to the medical public.
Dr. Murphy interned at St. Francis Hospital in Honolulu, then briefly practiced medicine at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now Brigham and Women’s Hospital) in Boston before embarking on a career in biomedical genius.
In 1943 he married Barbara Eastham, an American linguist born in China. They divorced in the early 1970s. In 1973, Dr. Murphy married Beverly Patterson. She survives him, as do three daughters from his first marriage, Wendy Sorakowski and Christine and Kathleen Murphy; two grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
After retiring from Cordis, Dr. Murphy and a colleague, John Sterner, in 1986 purchased Hyperion Inc., which designed, manufactured and marketed medical laboratory and diagnostic devices. In 2003, he joined the board of directors of Bioheart, which develops stem cell therapies. He became president of Bioheart in 2010, then president of US Stem Cell, a successor company.
In 2019, a federal court allowed the Food and Drug Administration to block US Stem Cell from injecting patients with an extract made from their own abdominal fat. This action comes after three patients suffered serious and permanent eye damage resulting from fat extracts being injected into their eyes to treat macular degeneration. The company had claimed that the extract contained stem cells with healing and regenerative powers, but medical experts disputed this claim.
Dr. Murphy then became excited about the promise of stem cell research. In 2014, he spoke with a Miami Conference on the controversial and growing field of using stem cells derived from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood to treat neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and heart disease. “This is a whole new world of regenerative therapy that will be crucial to our future,” he said.
Alex Traub reports contributed.