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Partnership formed to develop bone marrow stem cell technology

November 19th, 2007

The University of Louisville Monday announced a partnership between the UofL Research Foundation and NeoStem Inc., a New York City-based adult stem cell company, to develop Very Small Embryonic-Like stem cell (VSEL) technology.

Mariusz Ratajczak, director of the developmental biology program and holder of the Henry and Stella Hoenig Endowed Chair at UofL, led the research team that discovered VSEL technology. The technology has been hailed as having the potential to change the face of stem-cell research.

VESL cells, drawn from adult bone marrow, look like embryonic stem cells, have the same structure and protein markers and mimic their ability to multiply and develop into other kinds of cells.

Ratajczak’s team has shown that VESL cells can be grown in the laboratory and will multiply into clusters of cells that can be directed to become specialized cells found in different types of tissue, including heart, nerve, skin, muscle, pancreas and bone marrow. Their study, published in 2004 in the journal Leukemia, was the first to identify VESL stem cell existance.

The partnership with Neostem, said Manuel Martinez-Maldonado, executive vice president for research at UofL, has great promise to transform a laboratory discovery into potential treatments for dozens of diseases and conditions.

“Dr. Ratajczak’s work and this partnership with NeoStem are another great example of the return on Kentucky’s investment in Bucks for Brains, both in terms of business creation and potential cures,” said UofL President James Ramsey.

In recognition of the discovery, Ratajczak received the Foundation for Polish Science’s prize for medicine, called the “Polish Nobel Prize.”

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