Short Paper: The Clara Cell.

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Short Paper: The Clara Cell.

Short Paper: The Clara Cell.


Read The Clara Cell: A “Third Reich Eponym”‘? PDF attached below a scholarly article chronicling an ethical conflict from World War II.

Identify and describe the central ethical conflict of the case. If Max Clara and his research had been subject to the APA Code of Ethics, explain what principles and standards would have been violated. What are the ethical implications of making a moral judgment on past actions by researchers?

The short paper must be submitted as a 2–3 page Microsoft Word document with double spacing, 12-point Times New Roman font, one-inch margins, and at least three sources cited in APA format. Please find article attached below “The Clara Cell”

  • attachmentTheClaraCellPDF.pdf


The Clara cell: a ‘‘Third Reich eponym’’? A. Winkelmann* and T. Noack#

ABSTRACT: German anatomist Max Clara (1899–1966) described the ‘‘Clara cell’’ of the

bronchiolar epithelium in 1937. The present article investigates Clara’s relationship with National

Socialism, as well as his use of tissue from executed prisoners for research purposes, details

about both of which are largely unknown to date. Our methodology for the present study focussed

on analysis of material from historical archives and the publications of Clara and his co-workers.

Clara was appointed as Chair of Anatomy at Leipzig University (Leipzig, Germany) in 1935. He

owed his career, at least in part, to Nazi support. He was an active member of the Nazi party

(Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP)) and engaged in university politics; this

included making anti-Semitic statements about other academics in appointment procedures.

Nevertheless, he also supported prosecuted colleagues.

Much of Clara’s histological research in Leipzig, including his original description of the

bronchial epithelium, was based on tissue taken from prisoners executed in nearby Dresden


Max Clara was an active and outspoken Nazi and his histological research exploited the rising

number of executions during the Nazi period. Clara’s discovery is thus linked to the Nazi system.

The facts given in the present paper invite discussion about the eponym’s neglected history and

its continued and problematic use in medical terminology.

KEYWORDS: Bronchioli, Clara cell protein, histology, National Socialism, research ethics

I n 1937, anatomist Max Clara described a new secretory cell type in the human bronchial epithelium [1]; this has been known as the

‘‘Clara cell’’ since at least 1955 [2]. With the identification of a specific Clara cell protein (CC10, identical to CC16 or uteroglobin) [3], which may play a role as a clinical biomarker of lung disease [4], and with the characterisation of a Clara-like cell in neuroepithelial bodies of the airway lining [5] in the 1980s, interest in the cell and its function has intensified. The term ‘‘Clara cell’’ has been in widespread international use since that time (fig. 1).

At the same time, there has been considerable interest in eponymous scientific discoveries by researchers with a connection to Nazi Germany, such as Hans Reiter [7], Friedrich Wegener [8], Julius Hallervorden and Hugo Spatz [9]. It is therefore surprising that Clara’s documented support of the Nazi movement [10, 11] has not

drawn more attention, particularly as his oft-cited original description [1] was based on tissue taken from executed prisoners, a material source that is dubious at best by today’s ethical standards. We have therefore attempted to clarify Clara’s invol- vement in National Socialism and the ethical context of the original description of ‘‘his’’ cell. To our knowledge, no other eponym in respira- tory medicine, with the exception of Wegener’s granulomatosis (see Discussion), originated in the Third Reich.

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