Our History


Researchers at BWH began the first human clinical trial using targeted and programmed nanomedicine to effectively target cancer cells with decreased toxicity using a first-in-class targeted cancer drug called BIND-014.


BWH opened Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) suite, a one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art medical and surgical research environment that houses a complete array of advanced imaging equipment and interventional surgical systems.


With research starting in 2010, Patrick Purdon, PhD and Emery Brown, MD, PhD, developed a systems neuroscience paradigm to describe how anesthetic drugs act in the brain to create the states of general anesthesia. Based on their findings, Drs. Purdon and Brown have developed a new educational program to teach anesthesia caregivers how to determine the depth of anesthesia by reading the electroencephalogram (EEG) signatures of the drugs.


In the landmark JUPITER trial, researchers find a way to cut in half the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death in men and women who had low levels of cholesterol but were still at high risk for vascular disease due to increased levels of inflammation or high sensitivity C-reactive protein.


A laser eye scanner has been developed at BWH that is 100 percent accurate in detecting Alzheimer's disease in mice. The laser scans the eye for the protein beta amyloid, which forms on the edge of the eye, potentially decades before lesions form on the brain.


As a result of BWH research in the PROVE IT-TIMI 22 trial, national standards for cholesterol lowering in coronary heart disease are reset.


MGH researchers find that the expression levels of two genes in breast cancer tissue can identify whether tumors that are likely to be successfully treated with tamoxifen.

Researchers from the MGH Cancer Center and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute separately discover a marker that identifies lung cancer patients whose tumors will respond to treatment with the drug Iressa.

An underlying principle of mammalian reproductive biology is apparently overturned when MGH researchers find that female mice retain the ability to make new egg cells well into adulthood.

BWH achieves another transplant "first". Hundreds of BWH staff — including doctors, nurses and intensive care staff — come in on their weekend time off to make possible five lung transplants in 36 hours.


MGH researchers find that cells from the spleen appear to develop into insulin-producing pancreatic islets in adult mammals.

Researchers from the MGH Reproductive Endocrine Unit and collaborators identify an apparent genetic trigger to the onset of puberty for both mice and humans.

MGH radiologists show that radiofrequency ablation should be the treatment of choice for the majority of patients suffering with a benign but painful bone tumor known as osteoid osteoma.

A study conducted at MGH and a Dutch hospital finds that a new MRI technique may be able precisely to identify the spread of prostate cancer to lymph nodes. The approach is being investigated for tracking the spread of breast, bladder and kidney cancer.

An MGH physician and a former colleague receive the Inventor of the Year Award for their invention of a system to safely deliver inhaled nitric oxide gas to treat a number of dangerous lung conditions.

An MGH research study shows that a controversial vaccine against HIV can stimulate a critical part of the HIV-specific immune response in chronically infected patients. The result is the first clear demonstration of the potential reconstitution of the immune response in chronic HIV infection.


Researchers from the MGH and the Whitehead Center for Genome Research find that most human genetic variation is organized into large, neat units called "haplotype" blocks. The scientists are participating in an international effort to construct a haplotype map that may make it faster and easier to identify gene changes associated with susceptibility to common diseases.

Using a telemedicine connection, MGH physicians advise doctors at the South Pole as they operate on a patient's fractured knee, the first time that such a technique was used at the Antarctic research station.

MGH researchers find a simple blood test during the first trimester of pregnancy may be able to identify women at risk for preeclampsia, a common and dangerous complication of late pregnancy.


The Northeast Proton Therapy Center (NPTC) at MGH, which delivers highly targeted, precise radiation therapy, begins treating patients. The second hospital-based proton therapy center in the world, the NPTC features the most advanced technology of its kind and a full range of patient and research support services.

MGH researchers devise a simple treatment that cures type 1 diabetes in mice. The approach essentially retrains the animal's immune system not to attack insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells.

For the first time, MGH researchers identify how common drugs called NSAIDS, which include aspirin and other anti-inflammatories, act on the central nervous system to reduce pain.

MGH researchers discover stem cells within the pancreas that can generate insulin-secreting beta cells. Subsequent research may lead to ways to induce growth of a patient's own pancreatic islet cells for transplantation.

MGH researchers identify a surprising new mechanism by which breast cancer cells metastasize to the lymph nodes and lungs, a pathway that may be a target for treatment strategies.


For the first time, MGH researchers identify how common drugs called NSAIDS, which include aspirin and other anti-inflammatories, act on the central nervous system to reduce pain.

MGH researchers discover stem cells within the pancreas that can generate insulin-secreting beta cells. Subsequent research may lead to ways to induce growth of a patient's own pancreatic islet cells for transplantation.

MGH researchers identify a surprising new mechanism by which breast cancer cells metastasize to the lymph nodes and lungs, a pathway that may be a target for treatment strategies.

An MGH research team shows that most HIV-infected individuals who begin antiviral therapy during the earliest stages of infection can eventually keep the virus under control with their immune systems alone.

A study led by an MGH researcher finds that use of an experimental testosterone skin patch can relieve impaired sexual functioning in women who have had their ovaries removed before natural menopause.

An MGH dermatologist develops new laser techniques that can safely remove unwanted hair from people with darker ethnic skin. Previously laser skin treatments had been ruled out for those with dark skin because of the risk of side effects.

Surgeons from the MGH transplant team are the first to perform split-liver transplant procedures in the Northeastern U.S. The procedure, in which the liver from a single donor is divided between two recipients – usually and adult and a child – is another way to deal with the continuing shortage of donor organs.

In what is believed to be a "first" in organ transplantation, BWH performs a quadruple transplant. Harvesting four organs from a single donor — a kidney, two lungs and a heart — hospital surgeons give new hope to four patients, all of whom weather their surgeries well.


An MGH-based research team shows for the first time that gene therapy may be able to reverse heart failure. The researchers showed that delivering additional copies of a gene called SERCA2a to muscle cells from failing human hearts restored the cells to normal functioning. A follow-up study early in 2000 shows that delivering the same gene to the hearts of rats that are aged but not in heart failure can improve their cardiac function.

An MGH research study identifies a gene malfunction that appears to be central to the development of type 1 diabetes. The study in a classic animal model of type 1 diabetes found that a gene required to help teach the immune system to recognize so-called "self" proteins is somehow inactivated, even though its sequence is not mutated.

A MGH-based research team finds that elevated cholesterol appears to be a risk factor for preeclampsia, a condition of pregnancy that can have dangerous consequences for both mother and child. The discovery may lead to ways to reduce the risk of preeclampsia, something that is currently not possible.

Members of the MGH Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit show that medical treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (AHDH) – usually involving stimulant drugs like Ritalin – actually reduces the risk of substance abuse among teenage boys with ADHD.

Researchers from the MGH Cardiac Ultrasound Laboratory report that mitral valve prolapse, an abnormality of a heart valve, does not appear to be associated with an increased risk of stroke among young people. The discovery based on improved understanding of the valve’s shape and function that was developed at the MGH.

MGH researchers are the first to induce the growth of severed adult mammalian spinal cord fibers across the site of the injury without the use of implanted cells or tissues to bridge the severed fibers.

A team from the MGH Bone Marrow Transplant Center and the Transplantation Biology Research Center develop a new, less toxic preparative regimen allowing use of bone marrow transplantation from mismatched donors to treat certain blood-cell cancers. The technique is subsequently used to help induce immune tolerance in an organ transplant recipient. Simultaneous kidney and bone marrow transplantation treated the patient’s multiple myeloma and allowed discontinuation of immunosuppressive drugs without rejection of the kidney.

Investigators from the MGH Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology show that inactivation of a cell-death gene in female mice can sustain ovarian function into advanced age. The discovery may eventually lead to new techniques for reducing the health risks associated with menopause.

Amid national discourse on the need to reduce errors in medicine, BWH researchers report that the hospital’s own computerized drug-order entry system reduces the incidence of serious medication-related errors by 55 percent, setting a new benchmark for the country.


MGH researchers and collaborators from Canada are the first to apply molecular genetic analysis – classification of tumors by genetic information – to diagnosis of brain tumors, discovering genetic changes that indicate whether chemotherapy will be effective in treating a specific type of cancer.


MGH researchers identify the first activity of the human immune system that appears to suppress replication of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The discovery, which may explain why some HIV-infected individuals remain healthy for many years, becomes the basis for trials of several approaches to stimulating the immune system to control HIV.

Using state-of-the-art imaging techniques, researchers at the MGH reveal how specific areas of the brain react to cocaine, distinguishing patterns of activation associated with feelings of euphoria and craving among addicts.

Investigators from the MGH/Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology identify molecular pathways involved in the destruction of egg cells by a common chemotherapy drug. The discovery could lead to strategies for preserving fertility in girls and women treated with anti-cancer drugs.

An MGH-led research team identifies and clones the gene responsible for early-onset dystonia, a crippling, inherited neurological disorder that begins in childhood.

MGH researchers publish two important studies of treatment with inhaled nitric oxide (NO) — a technique pioneered at the MGH. One shows NO treatment significantly improves the condition of infants with a life-threatening condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension. The other suggests that NO might treat or prevent painful sickle cell crises.


BWH researchers discover that exposure to bright light alone resets the human biological clock and successfully alters by several hours a patient’s "circadian pacemaker," which keeps the body’s internal system in syncrony with the external light-dark cycle.

BWH becomes one of only 10 hospitals in the country to perform "minimally invasive" aortic valve surgery.

BWH researchers at the helm of the Cholesterol and Recurrent Events (CARE) trial report that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs (pravastatin) significantly lower heart-attack survivors’ risk of recurrent heart attack and death.

An MGH research team finds that low concentrations of the popular skin care ingredients alpha-hydroxy acids appear modestly effective in reducing symptoms of skin aging brought about by sun exposure and other environmental factors.

Researchers in the MGH Department of Molecular Biology identify and clone one of the first genes known to control aging in an animal.

MGH radiologists show that a new kind of CT scan is more effective at diagnosing appendicitis than traditional methods.


MGH surgeons perform the first double-lobe, living-related lung transplant in New England.

MGH researchers discover gene causing Batten disease, a fatal, inherited nervous system disease affecting children.

MGH researchers discover a gene associated with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease on Chromosome 1 and contribute to discovery of another early-onset gene on Chromosome 14.

BWH performs the nation’s first triple organ transplant, removing three organs from a single donor — two lungs and a heart — and transplanting them into three patients, giving each a new lease on life.


MGH researchers show that daily injections of parathyroid hormone can prevent osteoporosis in women with medically-induced menopause.

Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital join to form Partners HealthCare System.

BWH unveils the world’s first Intra-Operative Magnetic Resonance Imaging System. This invention, which enables clinicians to take images of the body’s interior during surgery, makes it possible to cure patients with brain tumors that previously were considered inoperable.


MGH surgeons perform the first heart-liver transplant in New England.

MGH physicians develop new approaches to treat invasive bladder cancer that preserve bladder function.

MGH surgeons are the first to use computerized brain images made by fusing information from both MRI and PET scans as a "road map" to guide an operation.

MGH researchers discover genes responsible for Huntington’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and neurofibromastosis Type 2 (NF2).


A gene responsible for a severe, early-onset form of hypertension which runs in families is identified at BWH.

BWH performs the first heart-lung transplant in Massachusetts.

BWH researchers discover that a protein (amyloid beta) thought to be an early, causative feature of Alzheimer’s disease is also present in healthy individuals, and that patients with Alzheimer’s produce too much of this protein or cannot break it down properly.


Researchers at the MGH are among the first to investigate combination therapy treatment for AIDS, using "cocktails" of several anti-HIV drugs to suppress viral reproduction. The approach results in dramatic improvement in the health of people with AIDS.


MGH researchers develop laser treatment for removal of pigmented lesions and tattoos.


MGH researchers contribute to discovery of first gene associated with inherited, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.


BWH researchers launch a series of national clinical studies known as the TIMI trials (Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction), which demonstrate that new "clot busting" (thrombolytic) drugs can save heart muscle and improve patients’ chances of surviving a heart attack. The series of 24 trials, eight which are ongoing, has revolutionized the care of heart-attack patients.


The first heart transplant in New England is performed at BWH.


MGH researchers, using a pulsed dye laser, are the first to treat the congenital birthmarks called port wine stains without scarring.


Vincent Memorial researchers develop a technique for reversing the premature onset of puberty in girls. (MGH)

MGH, MIT and Shriners Burns Institute researchers create the first artificial skin made from living cells.


MGH radiologists pioneer use of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to diagnose illness and injury.


BWH researchers launch the Nurses’ Health Study, enrolling 122,000 women in America’s first study of women’s health. Launched to explore the link between birth control pills and cancer, the ongoing NHS is examining associations between lifestyle factors (diet, smoking, exercise) and disease.


MGH dermatologists introduce the field of photochemotherapy, which uses light and special medications to treat disorders such as psoriasis.


The MGH pioneers PET (positron emission tomography) scanning, which gives one of the first noninvasive looks at functional changes within the brain and other organs.


The MGH pioneers telemedicine, the practice of medicine over closed-circuit television.


Research completed at the MGH makes practical for the first time the long-term storage of human blood.


MGH surgeons accomplish the first successful reattachment of a severed human limb.

A DC electric current is first used to restore normal rhythm to a heart (Peter Bent Brigham Hospital).


Proton beam therapy is first used to treat tumors of the eye, neck and brain. (MGH)


The first successful human organ transplant, a kidney transplanted from one identical twin to another, is accomplished. Joseph Murray, MD, receives the Nobel Prize in 1990 for this work and the subsequent development of immunosuppressive drugs (Peter Bent Brigham Hospital).


Cortisone, a steroid treatment used throughout medicine, is first administered to patients with rheumatoid arthritis (Robert Breck Brigham Hospital).

Carl Walter, MD, invents and perfects a way to collect, store and transfuse blood (Peter Bent Brigham Hospital).


Researcher at the Vincent Memorial Hospital, the gynecology service of the MGH, perfects use of Pap smear to detect cervical cancer.


Researchers fertilize a human ovum in a test tube for the first time (BWH/Free Hospital for Women).


In treating patients from the Coconut Grove fire, MGH physicians demonstrate efficacy of new approach to burn treatment and value of new blood bank and emergency plan.


Harvey Cushing, MD, the father of modern neurosurgery, performs his 2,000th brain surgery while serving as chief of Surgery (Peter Bent Brigham Hospital).


The first polio victim is saved using the newly developed Drinker Respirator (iron lung) at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in collaboration with Children's Hospital Medical Center and the Harvard School of Public Health.


Drs. William Murphy, George Whipple and George Minot discover that liver extracts cure pernicious anemia. In 1934, they share the Nobel Prize for this work (Peter Bent Brigham Hospital).


The first tumor clinic founded for the study of cancer. (MGH)


The Robert Breck Brigham Hospital, founded with a bequest from Peter Bent Brigham’s nephew, opens to serve patients with arthritis and other debilitating joint diseases.


The first X ray image in the United States is made by an MGH physician just 30 days after the technique is discovered in Europe.


MGH physician is the first to recognize the true nature of appendicitis. Information paves the way for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Antiseptic techniques are introduced to ward off infection following childbirth, dramatically reducing the maternal/child death rate (BWH/Boston Lying-In).


Anesthesia is administered in childbirth for the first time (BWH/Boston Lying-In).


On October 16, 1846, the first public demonstration of ether anesthesia was performed at Massachusetts General Hospital by Boston dentist William T.G. Morton, making pain-free surgery possible. After this historic event, operations not only increased significantly, but Morton's work spread quickly throughout the world and forever changed the surgical experience of patients.