Bo K. Siesjö, MD, PhD
January 8, 1930, to June 27, 2013
We acknowledge with great sadness the passing of Bo K. Siesjö, MD, PhD, in his 83rd year. He was founder and former director of the Laboratory of Experimental Brain Research, Lund University Hospital, Sweden, and former director of research in the Center for the Study of Neurological Diseases at Queen’s Neuroscience Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii. Dr Siesjö was a giant in the field of brain metabolism, stroke, and tissue injury research, and an international leader in experimental approaches to treat brain diseases. He dedicated decades of his professional career to pioneer the importance of calcium overload and oxygen radical generation in ischemic cell death, as well as pursued them as targets for therapy. He was recognized as an international authority on the regulation of acid-base metabolism in normal and diseased brain, and his passing leaves a large gap in this important area of knowledge. Dr Siesjö has been lauded and celebrated many times over by his colleagues and students, including the Mihara Award (1989), the J. Allan Taylor International Prize in Medicine (1992), The K.J. Zulch Prize (1992), and the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Society for Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism (ISCBF&M) (2003). He was a founding member of ISCBF&M and was a major force in establishing its foundations and shaping its direction in the critical early years of its existence. He was instrumental in setting the tone of the Journal of the Society (the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism) as a multidisciplinary publication aimed at decreasing the fragmentation in the cerebrovascular literature—previously scattered among different journals—and providing a setting in which the whole spectrum of cerebrovascular research could be presented in a cohesive manner1 He served as editor of the journal from its beginning in 1981 until 1985.
Trained as a neurosurgeon, professor Siesjö did postdoctoral and sabbatical training in Cambridge and Nice. Early in his career, he recognized the importance of embracing basic science and biochemical signaling as essential tools to understand the brain and its perturbations. He eventually applied this knowledge to the field of stroke. He was a person of enormous energy and intensity having published a single-authored 500-page textbook on brain energy metabolism and served as author and coauthor for >500 research publications. His laboratory was a Mecca for brain ischemia scientists who sought wisdom and guidance, and his network of colleagues, collaborators, and admirers was immense.
He was respected for his rigorous thinking, as well as for his wit, intellectual energy, and breadth of knowledge. His capacity for synthesis and conceptualization was unmatched. In addition to his book, a monumental effort still inspirational despite its age, his article with Astrup and Symon on the concept of ischemic penumbra,2 and his classic speculative synthesis on ischemic cell death,3 are without doubt landmarks in the field that have inspired and continue to inspire scores of investigators and are still relevant—and highly cited—decades later. His contributions to the delineation of blood flow thresholds in experimental brain ischemia models served as a starting point for strategies on neuroprotection and reperfusion in acute stroke and its application to humans. The therapeutic importance of the core and penumbra concept, which he helped to define, was recognized as fundamental from the start. As prophetically stated in the original article “in terms of absolute flow units, the distance between the two ischemic flow thresholds is delicately small—while the difference in terms of viability may be infinite.”2
At meetings, he was like a breath of fresh air. His comments were always insightful, inspiring, constructive, and reflected his deep understanding, as well as his historical perspective on the subject of stroke research. For young investigators at the podium, his approach toward the microphone during question time was not only a source of pride but also apprehension. We always looked forward to sit with him at lunch and discuss data, get advice, and seek approval. He was deeply interested in the success of young investigators and, in science as in art, he had a keen eye for talent. Despite his retirement >10 years ago, his work lives on and is still considered classic and remains among the most highly cited in the experimental stroke field.
Dr Siesjö was ahead of the curve in many areas. In addition to science, and more than a passing interest in golf, he was a connoisseur of the arts and culture and possessed a near-encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary art. He was a keen collector of painting, glass works, and sculptures which he cherished and spoke about with great relish. He described his passion for reading, writing, and collecting art in the same, almost feverish temper as he said4 and approached the enjoyment of reading, art, food, and wine with the same joie de vivre. In an interview given to The Lancet in 1999,4 he described his favorite books in this way: “When I was young, the works of Wilde and Apollinaire transmitted to me a wonderful feeling of wit, craziness, creativity, and lack of respect for rigidly established values. At my present mature age, Marquez’s remarkable novel One Hundred Years of Solitude and Makin’s equally tantalizing novel Dreams of My Russian Summers convey to me the wisdom of the human mind, the loneliness of our souls, and a feeling of our brittle existence on this planet.” It could not have been said any better. We will miss this profound thinker and the wonderful energetic human being that he was.
Dr Siesjö is survived by his 3 children, one of whom (Peter Siesjö) is a senior scientist in neurosurgery in Lund.
- Received August 23, 2013.
- Accepted August 26, 2013.
- © 2013 American Heart Association, Inc.