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He was born in Stockholm into a medical family: his father, Johann Henning Waldenström (1877–1972) was a professor of orthopedic surgery in Stockholm, and his grandfather, Johan Anton Waldenström (1839–1879) was professor of internal medicine in Uppsala.
Waldenström obtained his M.D. degree at the University of Uppsala, and studied organic chemistry with Hans Fischer at the Technical University of Munich. He was professor of theoretical medicine at the University of Uppsala in 1941, and became professor of practical medicine at the University of Lund in 1944. He was the head of the Department of Medicine at Malmö General Hospital until his retirement in 1972.
Waldenström first described, in 1944, patients suffering from a disease that has subsequently been named for him, Waldenström's macroglobulinemia, a "hyperviscosity syndrome" in which symptoms are caused by abnormal lymphocytes which prevent normal bone marrow function, causing anemia and hepatosplenomegaly, and which secrete large immunoglobulins, causing bleeding difficulties.
Waldenström's other clinical investigations included studies on the various porphyrias, on the benign hypergammaglobulinemic purpura of Waldenström, on chronic active hepatitis, hemosiderosis, on Bruton's hypogammaglobulinemia, paraneoplastic phenomena, and on carcinoid syndrome. He originated the concept of classification of gammopathies as "monoclonal gammopahies" vs. "polyclonal gammopathies" in 1961.
- J. Waldenström: Studien über Porphyrie, Dissertation. Acta Medica Scandinavica, Stockholm, 1937; supplement 82: 1-254.
- J. Waldenström: "The porphyrias as inborn errors of metabolism", The American Journal of Medicine, 1957, 22: 758-773.
- Jan G. Waldenström, Reflections and Recollections from a Long Life with Medicine, Rome, Ferrata Storti Foundation Publication, 1994. ISBN 88-7002-654-X.
- Waldenström J, Ljungberg E: Studies on the functional circulatory influence from metastasizing carcinoid (argentaffine, enterochromaffine) tumours and their possible relationship to enteramine production. Acta Med Scand 152:293, 1955
- "What is WM/LPL?". IWMF: International Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia Foundation. Sarasota, FL, USA. 2014-11-26. Archived from the original on 2017-04-26. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
[I]n 1944 [he] identified a rare condition in which two patients experienced a thickening of their blood serum, bleeding of the mouth, nose, and blood vessels of the retina, low red blood cell and platelet counts, high erythrocyte sedimentation rates, and lymph node involvement. Bone marrow biopsies showed an excess of lymphoid cells and bone X-rays were normal, excluding a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. Both patients also had a large amount of a single unknown blood protein with an extremely high molecular weight, a “macro” globulin.
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