Bernard Tandler, Hon Member of SIAI since 1978 – Memorial

Bernard Tandler, Hon Member of SIAI since 1978 (the story of his and Charles Hoppel cooperation with Alessandro Riva EM laboratory).
Memorial read by Alessandro Riva, under request of Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, on February 24th2022.

In the Summer of 1973, when I had already published a few papers on the ultrastructure of human exocrine glands including one on the parotid, I received, with great surprise, Berny’s letter
He was, at the time, Professor of Oral Biology at Case Western Reserve University. After having been in charge of the prestigious electron microscopy laboratory of the Sloan Kettering Institute he was already considered the rising star in the field of ultra-structural morphology of the salivary glands and on ultrastructure of Mitochondria, a topic he shared with his friend Charles Hoppel Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at CaseWestern.

In the letter, Tandler informed me that he had seen my papers on human salivary and lacrimal glands and that, before returning to Cleveland he would like to visit Cagliari to meeting me. In fact, he was at the end of a two-years contract as Visiting Professor of Anatomy at the University of Copenhagen and wanted to take advantage of the fact that he was still in Europe.

In Cagliari he stayed for a few days, mostly spent examining the ultrastructural images of human exocrine glands and discussing tissue preparation techniques.
He was also very interested in my new method of contrasting ultra-thin sections with Bismuth Subnitrate, as a substitute for Lead and asked me for a vial with a small amount of the powdered Chemical in order to be able to test it in his Cleveland laboratory.
I remember that at the airport, just before embarking, and having put the vial in his pocket, he said to me jokingly that he hoped that at Customs, the officer in charge, seeing the white powder might not have the bad idea of tasting it with his finger, subsequently dropping dead.

Since then, he started a collaboration with me and other members of the laboratory, which lasted until the end of 2019. Berny, gifted of great ease in writing, was also very helpful to me and other members of the Laboratory because he offered to review, even by fax and then by e-mail, the English of the papers to be sent for publication in American or British Journals. He spent a lot of time correcting and reviewing what he called “my music” (that is: my scientific output). As a token of my gratitude,I addressed him , in my correspondence, as Dear Maestro Tandlerini a title that Berny, a classic music lover, liked very much.

In 1978 he was invited by Riva to give a lecture on salivary glands at the Cagliari-Forte Village Convention of the Italian Anatomy Society. Following his presentation, which greatly impressed the audience, he was, unanimously, elected to the Honorary Membership of our Society.

He returned numerous times to Cagliari and in 1983 spent 6 months here accompanied by his beloved wife Helen, as Visiting Professor of Oral Biology and his prolonged presence greatly stimulated the realization of common projects. In August 1986 he suffered the severe blow of the sudden death of his wife from heart attack, while she was with him in a New York taxi at the gate of his brother apartment.
Berny came back to scientific research with great determination, but was struck by a series of neurological problems that were solved only after months of painful hospitalization until, at Cleveland Clinic, the cardiac surgeons discovered and closed a very small interatrial communication. This had been the cause of formation of minutes emboli directed to his brain.
In 1996, on my proposal, he was awarded, for his scientific achievements, the honorary degree in Dentistry and Dental Prosthetics by the University of Cagliari. To date his remains the only one Hon Degree on Dentistry ever granted by our 400dt y old University.
Berny collaboration with the laboratory was at first confined to the salivary glands, while the study of mitochondrial morphology, the other topic that Tandler shared with Hoppel since the 1970s, was limited to that of salivary oncocytes. The situation changed radically when, in the early 2000s, Tandler and Hoppel saw the images of mitochondria obtained in the High Resolution Scanning Electron Microscopy Laboratory with my variant of the osmic maceration method originally introduced by Tanaka. The fact that the technique highlighted the three-dimensional morphology of the cristae allowed form-function correlations on the cristae of mitochondria isolated in cell culture. The specimens first studied biochemically in Cleveland, were sent by air to the lab in Cagliari for the morphological examination with the HRSEM (see above).
Berny retired voluntarily from teaching in 2019 at the age of 87.He had covered from 2004 the position of Visiting Professor of Oral Biology in the Dental School of Case Western granted him ad vitam for his exceptional didactic skill, acknowledged at the National level.
During all this time, and even after retirement, he continued his fruitful scientific cooperation, particularly on heart mitochondria biology, with his friend Chuck and his coworkers.
These researches are still going on through the collaboration of Chuck with Raffaella Isola (current head of Cagliari EM Lab). A difference, not detectable with TEM, has been found in the 3D shape of cristae of two populations, characterized biochemically, of rat mitochondria.