Frequent reports published in the years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings during the war, of the immediate, secondary and late consequences of the radiation, fuelled the international astonishment and fright already left in their wake. Indeed, aside the mechanical and thermal effects of the explosion, a large number of publications reported the more insidious middle- and long-term effects of the radiation. Among the reported cases were curious states of aplastic anemia, organ failure, debilitating anemia, thrombocytopenia, susceptibility to infectious diseases, and later, a considerable rise in the number of cases of lymphocytic leukemia (until then very rare in Japan). Doctors were above all interested in the aplastic anemia. Reports were being made in the field of irreversible aplasia induced by radiation at doses allowing the destruction of not only certain sensitive tissues, such as intestinal mucosa and lung tissue, but also the complete reserve of hematopoietic stem cells and the fragile network organization of the bone marrow tissue. In other subjects, situations occurred whereby the repair was too long to allow its completion, since the risks of complications were at the time too high. In others still, a steady repair suggested a preservation of medullary zones during the irradiation.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, with the help of grants given to research laboratories, proposed to encourage studies on blood restoration following total irradiation; it granted financial support to Georges Mathé for the development of a laboratory dedicated to this subject, which he set up in Paris. Trained in immunology in Bernard Halpern's team, in physiology in Jean Hamburger's team, in hematology in Paul Chevallier's team, in cancerology at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Memorial, Georges Mathé was working on child leukemia in Jean Bernard' s team and was doing research for the Institut National d'Hygiène. His work involved collaborations with notably the English scientist John Loutit and the Dutch scientist Dick van Bekkum, and while exclusively based on laboratory animals, it aimed to achieve both experimental research and clinical goals.
Indeed, far from being exclusively interested in theoretical and abstract subjects, the basis for fundamental research often takes inspiration from real-life issues. While one could reasonably assume on the decreasing likelihood of whole body irradiation of military origin, accidents in laboratories concerned with the exploiting of new energy sources or with the use of irradiation for peaceful and civilian purposes, were on the contrary at risk of increasing.