LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Mariusz Z. Ratajczak, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sci., was presented with a Gold Cross of Merit by the president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, on January 22 in Warsaw. Ratajczak, a professor in the University of Louisville Department of Medicine, was recognized for his work in stem cell research and transplantation.
Ratajczak, a native of Poland, received the award at a ceremony marking the opening of National Transplantation Congress in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first kidney transplant in Poland and the 30th anniversary of the country’s first bone marrow transplant. The Cross of Merit is a civil state award presented by the government of Poland to citizens who have gone beyond the call of duty in their work for the country and society as a whole. The award was established in 1923 to recognize services to the state and has three grades: gold, silver and bronze.
Ratajczak is an internationally known specialist in the field of adult stem cell biology and is director of the Stem Cell Program at UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, a part of KentuckyOne Health. His 2005 discovery of embryonic-like stem cells in adult bone marrow tissues has the potential to revolutionize the field of regenerative medicine. These very small embryonic-like cells (VSELs) may lead to new treatments for cancer, heart disease, eye disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders.
“My work would not be possible without the longstanding support of Donald Miller, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Brown Cancer Center, to my program,” Ratajczak said. “I also consider the award as recognition to my team of collaborators: Magda Kucia, Ph.D., D.Sci., Janina Ratajczak, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sci., Malwina Suszynska, Ph.D., and Gabriela Schneider, Ph.D., who are working with me to employ VSELs in regenerative medicine.”
Recently, Ratajczak’s research team has developed a promising strategy to expand VSELs, opening a door for using the cells in regenerative medicine as an alternative to other stem cells.
Ratajczak also is known for his work on novel mechanisms of mobilization and homing of stem cells, the biological role of extracellular microvesicles and molecular mechanisms of cancer metastasis. His work is supported by two R01 grants. He holds the Stella and Henry Hoenig Endowed Chair in Cancer Biology.