Jacob Hanker, Professor Emeritus Dies

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of one of our former faculty members, Dr. Jacob Hanker, after a long illness. Jake was a Professor Emeritus of Oral Surgery and Biomedical Engineering at the UNC School of Dentistry, and worked in the Dental Research Center from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. There will be memorial service for him at the Hillel Foundation, 210 W. Cameron Avenue, at 2:00pm Wednesday afternoon May 19th. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know Jake remember the important role he played in making the Dental Research Center and the UNC School of Dentistry one of the premier dental research institutions in the world. We send our condolences to his family and friends on this sorrowful occasion.

Jake Hanker, 1925-2004, a lifetime of achievement!
Dr. Jacob Hanker was born in 1925 in Philadelphia, PA.  Prior to his career in science, Dr. Hanker volunteered for military service in World War II, serving as an infantryman on the Italian front and saw significant combat.  After the war, he obtained a BS degree in Chemistry from St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia.  He then went to work as an organic chemist, first at the University of Maryland, then at the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Labs.  He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Maryland in 1969, and spent the rest of his career as a member of the faculty of the School of Dentistry and the Dental Research Center at UNC, first as an Associate Professor, then as a full professor since 1974.
Dr. Hanker was a world-renowned scientist in the area of development and formation of bones and teeth.  He, along with Drs. Svein Toverud and Drew Dixon, made major contributions to our understanding of the cellular activity of enzymes during osteogenesis and odontogenesis and in trigeminal sensory pathways.  He also performed groundbreaking work on mechanisms of histochemical and cytochemical reactions.  His work led to many advances in developing and improving histochemical stains and techniques for light and electron microscopy.  He made significant advances in the process of amplification of histochemical reactions, allowing him to see structures in cells that could not be previously visualized by more conventional stains.  He developed new stains that could demonstrate, differentiate, and quantitate gram-negative bacteria in thermal or traumatic injury or sepsis.  This revolutionary new stain, called the PATS stain, has led to new techniques that allow the more rapid and more accurate identification of infectious organisms.

Dr. Hanker also had a distinguished international reputation in the field of biomaterials, and had a distinguished publication record in this area.  His most noteworthy achievement was the formulation of HAPSET Bone Graft Plaster; a material consisting of plaster of paris and hydroxyapetite that serves as artificial bone allowing natural bone and teeth regeneration.  That material is used by dentists and surgeons as a bone tissue replacement.  Dr. Hanker’s work spanned 46 years, 109 Publications, and numerous presentations, awards, and patents.  The last 29 years of his scientific career were carried out here at the UNC School of Dentistry.  He retired from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1999 as a Professor Emeritus of Oral Biology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and Biomedical Engineering.  Dr. Jacob Hanker had a long and distinguished record of achievement and accomplishment in biomedical research, and the School of Dentistry will miss his extraordinary contributions to our School, our University, and our community.