Steven M Krane, M.D., a founding member of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research and its 4th President passed away on January 19, 2015 at age 87 after a long illness. Steve was a giant in our field whose contributions to both skeletal biology and rheumatology are immeasurable. He was originally from New York City, where he received both his undergraduate and medical degrees at Columbia University. However, he began his long affiliation with the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University directly after his graduation from Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. At MGH Steve was first a medicine resident, then a research fellow in the Thyroid Unit and ultimately, a Chief Resident in Medicine. After his clinical training he began his faculty career in the Endocrine Unit of the MGH.
Steve eventually decided that the focus of his career was to be rheumatology and in 1961 he became the Chief of the MGH Arthritis Unit, a position that he maintained for 39 years. He concentrated his science on the mechanisms through which connective tissues degraded. In two papers in Science in 1967 Steve pioneered the concept that connective tissue degredating enzymes had critical roles in human diseases. He was the first to show that Paget’s disease patients excrete collagen fragments in their urine, demonstrating the breakdown of bone that is so active in that disease. He also identified synovial-produced collagenase as an important factor in the joint destruction that characterizes rheumatoid arthritis. Over the course of his long career Steve would go on to define the roles of a variety of collagenases in human disease and develop a series of innovative models to test these roles. His CV lists 191 publications and he maintained a NIH-funded laboratory into his 80’s.
Steve was brilliant. One only had to present data to him to appreciate how quickly his mind worked. I had the opportunity to present my work to him a number of times and I rapidly came to appreciate (and sometimes fear) his remarkable ability to organize data and identify both the strengths and the weaknesses of any argument or conclusion. He was totally without pretention and would tell you point blank whether he thought what you were trying to sell was valid or worthless. There was no sugarcoating with Steve. However, he would do this because he was trying to be constructive. One only has to scan the illustrious list of investigators that he mentored over his career to appreciate how strong an influence he had on the development of talented scientists in our field.
Steve loved life and never lost his appreciation for the wonder of scientific discovery. He would become excited by good science and he encouraged any number of investigators to purse discovery both in his own lab and in labs around the world. He was also funny, personable and caring. We would occasionally take walks together at ASBMR meetings and he was always interested in what I was doing and the implications of my work. Despite his sometimes-gruff demeanor, he retained an element of child-like wonder. I remember very early in my career being at the Gordon Conference on Bones and Teeth and watching Steve and his good friend, Lou Avioli, cavorting together like kids at summer camp, which, to a degree, they were.
Steve once said something to me that I have always appreciated. He told me that I was serious about my science, which for Steve was high praise. He will be greatly missed.
Joe Lorenzo, M.D.
Farmington, Connecticut, U.S.A.
Stephen M. Krane, M.D.
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