Prof. Dr. med. Werner Hunstein

Curriculum vitae

I was born in Kassel in 1928 as the second son of a practicing physician, Dr. med. Heinz Hunstein, and one of the first female dentists in Germany, Dr. med. dent. Dorothea Hunstein, neé Schmidt, of Bielefeld.

After attending middle school and high school, I spent the last days of my schooling in the air force auxiliary until September, 1944. I avoided the military draft until the arrival of American troops in March, 1945, by hiding on our large piece of land near the city.

In the ensuing chaos of the war aftermath I had private tutoring and passed the official university qualifying examinations in 1947. As there was no electricity, water, or hospitals, my father died of hepatitis in our country house following a brief period in American captivity. We had moved to the country after our house in the city had been heavily damaged due to the bombing. The experience of my father's slow and painful death changed my mind about becoming a physician. Thus, I started my university studies in Marburg in the winter semester of 1947/48 in art history, German language and literature, and Romance studies.

In 1948/49 I was able to attend the University of Basel through an invitation from Swiss friends of my parents. Here I studied, among other topics, philosophy with Carl Jaspers, economics with Edgar Salin, theology with Karl Barth, and, to round out my education, zoology with Adolf Portmann. His brilliant lectures at the old university located at the shore of the Rhine - the training grounds of Nietzsche - led me to the study of medicine, which I took up again in Marburg in 1950.

After the preliminary medical exams in 1951 I continued my studies in Freiburg im Breisgau in the winter semester of 1951/1952. I completed my dissertation on lymphogranulomastosis with Ludwig Heilmeyer in 1954.

My time as an intern was greatly influenced by Prof. Bergfeld and his experienced nursing team, and I continued my education at the University Medical Clinic of Freiburg. I then accompanied pathologist Hans-Werner Altmann in a move to Berlin, where he had been offered a position. During these years (1956-1958) his personality made a strong impression on me: pathophysiological thinking combined with continual clinical inquiry into all findings and deliberations. I consequently moved with him to the University of Würzburg for a further six months. This teacher-pupil relationship was something special that has led to a life-long friendship, lasting up to the present day.

After returning to the University Medical Clinic of Freiburg in 1959, I continued radiological experiments with rats together with Hans-Werner Altmann and the radiologist Ernst Stutz. There I was granted directorship of the haematological laboratory as the successor of Herbert Begemann. I obtained my postdoctoral lecture qualification in 1964 in Freiburg in order to accept a position as senior physician at the Medical Clinic of Göttingen with Werner Creutzfeldt, who was the son of "Creutzfeldt-Jakob" and the grandson of the first German sociologist Werner Sombart.

While I was there, the clinic was divided by Creutzfeldt into different "departments" according to the American pattern. This promoted the development of subspecialties such as nephrology, diabetology, cardiology, haematology, pneumology, etc., and evoked the wrath of his colleagues at that time. However, hadn't internal medicine already been split into disciplines like dermatology, neurology, and pediatrics at the turn of the century?

In Göttingen I continued my work on experimental bone marrow fibrosis.

In August, 1971, I took over as head of the Heidelberg University Medical Policlinic in the middle of a socially troubled time: the so-called socialist patient collective had barricaded itself in the clinic's basement. Only with the help of the education minister at that time, Prof. Hahn, were my colleagues, who had accompanied me from Göttingen, and I able to triumph. Within the framework of the still-developing subspecialties, I expanded the focus on haematology with the aim of enabling bone marrow transplantation.

Thus, in 1983 we were able to establish a transplantation facility with intensive care (sterile, reverse isolation) as well as a new hospital building that was connected to the main hospital via a skywalk.

Encouraged by the success of Theodor Max Fliedner's animal experiments in Ulm, which I knew about since our time together with Prof. Heilmeyer, we managed in 1985, together with Martin Körbling (now in Houston, Texas) to be the first to perform the transplantation of stem cells from peripheral blood. Due to a hyperostosis, bone marrow of this particular patient could not be used. This method, at first controversial and wrongly interpreted as self regeneration, developed surprisingly rapidly into a routine practice, also due to investigations on proliferation kinetics at our clinic by Rainer Hass (now in Düsseldorf).

This method, at first controversial and wrongly interpreted as self regeneration, developed surprisingly rapidly into a routine practice, also due to investigations on proliferation kinetics at our clinic.

Many good colleagues were able to fully realize their talents at the clinic. In line with the principles of the Humboldt brothers Wilhelm and Alexander, teachers and pupils were able to meet on the same level at "my" clinic. Each was scrutinized for his research and its results as well as his individual lectures but incorporated independently in the structure of the clinic. I supported particularly successful co-workers in securing temporary employment at institutions abroad. This began with my first chief physician, Nikolaus Uhl (now in Essen), who, after visiting Prof. Paul in Glasgow, was able to establish long-term cultures of bone marrow in normal incubators (!). Thus, he effectively continued with uraemia patients the studies on anaemia that Peter Maria Reisert and I had carried out in Göttingen on protein deprived rats. These anaemia studies had attracted the attention of Frederic Stohlman, who donated to us his first experimentally useful erythropoietin extract, a blue powder.

A further success was achieved by Bernd Dörken, now at the Charité in Berlin, with the production of human monoclonal antibodies in collaboration with the Heidelberg Cancer Research Centre DKFZ. The chromosomal analysis of Hartmut Döhner, now in Ulm, together with Peter Lichter of the DKFZ, led to a new chromosome-based classification of acute leukae mia.

At the age of 68, as one of the last "Ordentliche Professors", I achieved emeritus status in October of 1996. My comfortable retirement period came to a bitter end when I was diagnosed with an extremely rare blood disease in December of 2004: lambda light-chain amyloidosis.

This website provides more information about this condition. I created it after failing, even after three years, to convince my colleagues in the field of haematology, with the exception of one, of the success of my treatment without chemotherapy. Thus, since the beginning of September, 2006, I have been successfully treating myself with green tea and subsequently green tea extract capsules (GTE), containing the main green tea polyphenol EpiGalloCatechinGallate = EGCG.

My previous assistant Antonio Pezzutto (now my personal physician) and Bernd Dörken, both of the Charité, had again further spun the threads of Erich Eberhard Wanker and his group, especially Jan Bieschke, which for me are the threads of life, with their advice to continue the treatment with EGCG as an experiment on myself, prompted through Wanker and his group's success with this substance in vitro at the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin.


N.B.: Prof. Dr. Werner Hunstein passed away on February 16, 2012 in Heidelberg. The first phase II open-label randomized trial on EGCG in cardiac AL amyloidosis started in 2012 in Pavia, Italy, under the direction of Prof. Merlini and Dr. Palladini, and is currently recruiting participants (see EpiCardiAL).