Early history of skin preservation and transplantation; the role of Carl August Ljunggren

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During the late 19th and the early 20th century there was an unprecedented development in medical research. Tissue and cell culture rapidly developed into areas with many contributing scientists. The same is true for tissue transplantation. When these achievements are described afterwards in a historical context and a mainline development is constructed, there are researchers whose pioneering work is forgotten. The present paper attempts to correct this and to present a correct description of the start of tissue preservation and transplantation. We have traced relevant original publications in international journals between 1870 and 1920. The traditional view is that Alexis Carrel was the first He received a Nobel Prize 1912 for his work on vascular suture and the transplantation of blood vessels and organs. The same year he published an article on human skin storage and transplantation. This was more than a decade later than Carl August Ljunggren (1860–1934) who 1898 published his pioneering but long forgotten work on human skin preservation and transplantation, and with a vision of tissue banks. Our article contains a brief biography of Ljunggren, and further reconstructs the processes that resulted in the lack of awareness today of his achievements. Conclusion: Carl August Ljunggren was the first to preserve human skin in vitro for prolonged periods, followed by transplantation of the specimens to other patients. He was also the first to propose the use of tissue banks.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medical Biography
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History and Archaeology
  • Other Medical Sciences not elsewhere specified


  • carrel
  • Ljunggren
  • Tissue culture
  • transplantation


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