Chance » Reflections » Mayevsky

Encounters with BC

Avraham Mayevsky / Bar-Ilan University, Israel

29 May 2011

My first meeting with Prof. Britton Chance was in Israel during his attendance of the Biophysical Society meeting in 1971. He came to visit my advisor toward my Ph.D thesis, Prof David Samuel at the Isotope department of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. He saw the brain in vivo monitoring system for the evaluation in radioactive phosphate and immediately offered me the opportunity to come to the Johnson Research Foundation in Philadelphia and join his group as a postdoctoral fellow.

After my graduation, from the Weizman Institute (Rechovot ISRAEL) in October 1972, my family (wife and 3 children) came to Philadelphia and stayed there for 2 years.

After 2 years of post doctorate activity I went back to Bar-Ilan University in Israel but our collaboration continued and the next visit for a year was in 1980-81. Every year between 1974 and 1988 I visited the Johnson Research Foundation for an average period of one month. Later on we spent 2 years in Philadelphia during which our first attempt to monitor neurosurgical patients came through.

During my collaboration with Prof Chance we published 33 papers together in addition to more than 100 papers that I published with other collaborators on NADH monitoring. Our meeting in 2007-2008 in China was sort-of closing a life cycle that started in Philadelphia in 1972 and ended in the famous Britton Chance Center for Biomedical Photonics, Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China.

Before describing my personal anecdotes with Prof. Chance, I would like to summarize his contribution to the field of bioenergetics by monitoring mitochondrial signals. He was the first one to develop in details optical technique for the monitoring of mitochondrial signals namely NADH and flavoproteins in intact tissues and later on under in vivo conditions. Brit started his activities in this field after the discoveries of Warburg and Keilin before 1950. He was the leader of modern biophtonics regarding the theoretical, experimental and clinical application of optical monitoring of mitochondrial signals. During the first decade (1951-1962), Brit investigated the isolated mitochondria via tissues in vitro and finally under in vivo conditions. It is impossible to imagine the development of this field of bioenergetics without the foundations put together by Prof. Chance. In the 1970s he started to apply the optical technology toward clinical applications.

I would like to mention few events and episodes that are presenting my unique personal ties with Prof. Chance who was my second (scientific) father.

  1. In October 1972, we arrived in Philadelphia with 3 children after an 18 hour flight and the Chance family hosts my family in their home for more than a week. This impressive welcome was very important in the establishment of my collaboration mode with Prof. Chance for more than 35 years. During this week we had an opportunity to be in daily touch with the Chance family. Before dinner, Prof Chance (or one of the children) played the piano which led to very special atmosphere.
  2. Prof. Chance was a very demanding scientist from himself as well as from his collaborators. One day, when Brit felt that my experiments were moving relatively slow he told me that "I am waiting for your results for more than 10 years so please do it faster". When I was looking for the nitrogen cylinder at 7 p.m. during my experiments, Brit went with the cart to his lab and brought it to my lab. This kind of behavior stimulates our activities and fruitful collaboration.
  3. My family remembers very well the Sunday sailing event with Brit and others. My children never forgot it.
  4. After starting the routine experiments, we had a very stimulating meeting almost every evening. During this short session Brit was analyzing the results of the day and we decided about the next day study. Those discussions were recorded and in the next day I received the transcript of the discussion.
  5. In parallel to his demands, Brit took care on my scientific advancements and provided all my needs in the laboratory and 3 months after my beginning he took me to a meeting (head injury) in the NIH to present my preliminary results. Our first paper was published in mid-1973 after the ISOTT meeting in South Carolina.
  6. During my visit in 1980, I collaborated with Shoko Nioka and Brit, in applying 31p-NMR to newborn puppies. Most of our studies were run during the nights and I remember especially one midnight experiment. Brit went home close to midnight but around 3am the telephone was ringing and Brit was asking about the progress of the experiment.
  7. Since Day One of my collaboration with Brit, he emphasised the need for transformation of the developed technology into clinical protocols and usage. This approach affected my efforts in this respect and few papers were published on clinical monitoring of patients during neurosurgical procedures as well as in critical care medicine. I think that Brit's dream came through.

– Avraham Mayevsky