Editor's note: Mayo Clinic is celebrating its 150th birthday this week, and its traveling exhibit, "Mayo Clinic: 150 Years of Serving Humanity," is visiting Rochester. This is the first of 6 articles about the clinic's history to run each day this week.
Until Mayo Clinic research intervened, there was little to be done for sufferers of arthritis.
Two Mayo researchers, Edward Kendall, Ph.D., and rheumatologist Dr. Phillip Hench (Mayo's first rheumatologist, according to MayoClinic.org), collaborated after Kendall had isolated six hormones from the adrenal gland.
Hench approached Kendall because some of his patients with arthritis had symptoms that "mysteriously improved" if they experienced jaundice or became pregnant.
According to Mayo, Kendall and Hench hypothesized that one of the hormones Kendall had previously isolated might work against the unrelenting — and at that time virtually untreatable — pain of arthritis.
Mayo reports that a patient at Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester got the first injection of what Kendall had named "Compound E."
"Three days later there was an astonishing change — less muscular stiffness and soreness," Mayo reports. "Over the next seven months, trials were completed on 14 patients with severe or moderately severe rheumatoid arthritis. All showed marked improvement."
In 1950, according to NobelPrize.org, Kendall and Hench were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine, which they shared with Tadeus Reichstein for his independent work, "for their discoveries relating to the hormones of the adrenal cortex, their structure and biological effects."
Hench proclaimed,"In our opinion, the awards we received belong truly to all the men and women of the Mayo Clinic because it was the spirit of cooperative endeavor, the fundamental credo of the institution, which made possible the work which resulted in our trip to Stockholm."