In memoriam: Edward
H. Ahrens Jr.
Edward H. Ahrens Jr., professor emeritus at The Rockefeller University
and a pioneer in early research on lipids and cholesterol metabolism,
died Sat., Dec. 9. He was 85.
Ahrens's studies contributed important information toward a better
understanding of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hormonal disorders
and obesity. In the early 1950s, he was the first to perform careful
dietary studies, using formula diets, to test the effects of different
types of fats on cholesterol levels, and his laboratory provided definitive
confirmation that the kind of fats we eat can alter the level of cholesterol
in our blood.
In attempting to separate and identify fractions of the complex
mixture of fats that exist in all biological systems, Ahrens and
his colleagues introduced a variety of physico-chemical techniques,
including countercurrent distribution, invented by another Rockefeller
scientist, the late Lyman C. Craig, and column and gas-liquid chromatography.
These methods made it possible to define extremely minute amounts
of fatty material.
His clinical studies spanned more than four decades and centered
on fat digestion and absorption, fat transport through the body,
control of serum cholesterol levels, deposition of fat in adipose
tissues and factors controlling the composition of motherŐs milk.
His primary interest in later years was the relationship of cholesterol
metabolism to the genesis of coronary heart disease. His research
on the synthesis and degradation of cholesterol in patients are
classics of patient-oriented research.
Ahrens joined The Rockefeller University, then known as The Rockefeller
Institute for Medical Research, in 1946 as an assistant. He was
a senior fellow of the National Research Council from 1949 to 1950
and a National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis senior fellow
from 1950 to 1952. From 1958 to 1959, he worked as a fellow of the
National Science Foundation with G. Popják of the Medical
Research Council, London. He was appointed professor at Rockefeller
in 1960 and became the university's first Frederick Henry Leonhardt
Professor in 1982.