EDINBURGH

RIE - 1960s to the present

CHEMICAL TOXICOLOGY

In 1964 a Chemical Toxicology Sub-Unit was set up to provide laboratory support for the Regional Poisoning Treatment Centre which was in Ward 3 of the Royal Infirmary.

Henry JS Matthew was the Consultant in charge and the Director of the Scottish Poisons Information Bureau. Prior to this, a limited range of toxicology assays (salicylates and occasional barbiturate assays) were provided by the department and Howard Street, in the Department of Forensic Medicine, provided a forensic toxicology service.

In February 1965, Sidney Lionel Tompsett was appointed to take charge of the toxicology unit and Stanley S Brown, from the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, was appointed in the same year. Tompsett, Brown, Jean Cameron and another member of the technical staff (in rotation) worked in the unit to develop in depth the toxicological and biochemical aspects of the diagnosis and treatment of poisoning.

SL Tompsett had been a Senior Lecturer in the department when he had moved to the Edinburgh Northern Hospital Group in 1950 and he returned as Reader. He published several methods for drug analysis, including the o-cresol method for paracetamol (1958 & 1969) and the "knife point of sodium hydrogen carbonate and sodium dithionite" method for paraquat (1968). He retired in 1971 and moved to New Zealand where he died in January 1974. (ref: 10, 11, 21, 39)

SS Brown worked in the Unit until he was appointed to the M.R.C. Clinical Research Centre at Northwick Park, Harrow in 1972. He was appointed to the Regional Laboratory for Toxicology in Birmingham in 1983.

The Unit measured large numbers of barbiturate and salicylate levels during the first three years as part of an intensive study of these drugs in the context of self-poisoning and this led to published accounts of standardised forms of treatment. Basic work on the pharmacokinetics of paracetamol was carried out in collaboration with LF Prescott in the University Department of Therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology. The first lung transplant for paraquat poisoning was performed in May 1968. Reports from the Sub-Unit and the Regional Poisoning Treatment Centre on acute poisoning with "Mandrax" led to the proscription of methaqualone as a Dangerous Drug both in the UK and in the USA. (ref: 19,21,33,80)

Michael J Stewart, from Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, was appointed to the Unit in 1975. Among the equipment, he found a tube shaker with three speeds - 33, 45 and 78 (revs per minute). (This was a typical example of laboratory inventiveness from the 1950s and 1960s.) MJ Stewart continued the work on paracetamol and paraquat, helping to develop both the prognostic use of plasma levels and the monitoring of treatment. He was appointed as Top Grade Biochemist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1979 where he retired in 1995.

In 1968 Danny Simpson was promoted from Basic Grade Biochemist to Lecturer. He had been closely involved in the work of linking the AutoAnalyzers to the Elliott 903 computer and then moved into the toxicology section. He retired ca. 1997.

RIE - Endocrinology Research Unit

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