Pavlov University: 125 years in blood research
Professor Alexander D. Kulagin, Editor-in-Chief, Cellular Therapy and Transplantation Journal
In 2022, the First St. Petersburg State Medical University (Pavlov University) is celebrating its 125th anniversary. The studies in clinical hematology and immunology developed here since early XX century at the Chair of Faculty Therapy. Its future head, Prof. Georg F. Lang later became a famous cardiologist. However, his Doctor’s Thesis (1901) was dedicated to osmotic resistance of red blood cells in stomach cancer and other malignancies. He presented original experimental studies on regulation of red blood cells and hemolysis. Later on, professor T. S. Istamanova headed the chair, being the best successor of his school. She was among founders of functional hematology, proceeded with studies in physiology and pathology of erythropoiesis performed since 20s. Her experimental works concerned the role of spleen in red blood cell destruction, neurogenic regulation of hematopoiesis, functional significance of reticulocytosis in hematopoietic function. Prof. T. S. Istamanova was deeply involved into clinical aspects of polycythemia. Functional dynamics of erythroid cells was extensively studied over 40s and 50s, especially, using innovative assays of hemoglobin metabolism with 59Fe and other radionuclides.
Since 70s, Prof. Vladimir A. Almazov became Head of the Chair. Since that time, the studies of leukemogenesis were launched here by new generation of clinical hematologists headed by Boris V. Afanasyev. The ex vivo cultures of colony-forming units of granulocyte-macrophage progenitor cells allowed them to get the first evidence for intrinsic factors of granulo-monocytopoiesis in acute leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia, especially in different blast crisis types, myelodysplastic syndromes in adults, along with pioneering studies of aplastic anemia in children. The summarized data were published in Progenitor Hematopoietic Human Cells (1985), the first monograph in this field.
The notorious Chernobyl nuclear accident (1986) has promoted studies in the area of acute cytostatic syndrome in USSR and abroad. Boris Afanasyev, who worked at the Pavlov Medical Institute, was sent to Seattle for training at the famous clinic by E. Donnal Thomas, the Nobel Prize winner of 1990 for successful transplantation of hematopoietic cells in human patients. Several years later, by the initiative of Prof. Boris Afanasyev, the University management has arranged the Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation at the Pavlov University (1997) where the implementation of program for different types of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation was started in children and adults.
One should note the extensive clinical aid and consultative efforts from our foreign friends and colleagues in the field of leukemia treatment protocols, immunological typing, leukemia diagnostics and treatment schedules. This support was extremely important during 1990-1996, at the earlier steps of our BMT activity. The Hematology, Oncology and HSCT units at the Pavlov University could not succeed in the field without stable professional contacts with outstanding experts from Europe and USA. We should be appreciated, first of all, to close cooperation with Hamburg University (Germany) arranged by Prof. R. Neth, A. Zander, Th. Büchner, other German leading specialists – Prof. H.-J. Kolb, D. Hoelzer, B. Fehse. The leading specialists from other countries were also involved into these cooperative efforts, e.g., Prof. R. Gale (USA), Prof. G. Wagemaker (The Netherlands), Prof. A. Bacigalupo (Italy) and many other renown clinicians. Prof. Axel Zander, Axel Fauser, Gerard Wagemaker, Dieter Hoelzer were awarded the titles of Doctor Honoris Causa at the Pavlov University due to their merits in cooperation with Russian specialists in the field.
In the last 15 years, the development of hematology at the University is associated with RM Gorbacheva Memorial Research Institute organized by Prof. B. V. Afanasyev, being among the most active BMT centers in the Europe. During this period, over 4500 allogeneic and autologous transplants were performed in children and adults with leukemia, lymphomas, multiple myeloma, aplastic anemia, immunodeficiencies, solid tumors and metabolic disorders. The staff of the Institute conducts experimental and clinical research in the field of leukemia, myeloproliferative diseases, lymphomas, myeloma, bone marrow failure and other areas of hematology.
The Journal Cellular Therapy and Transplantation (CTT) is a joint project of German and Russian specialists in BMT and oncohematology, being issued since 2008. CTT publishes original data in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, cellular and immunotherapy, gene therapy and adjacent areas of medicine and biology. We hope that clinical, research and publishing activities in this field will further develop at the Pavlov University, in close cooperation with our Russian and foreign colleagues for the benefit of patients with leukemia and other severe disorders that may be cured now by modern therapeutic approaches.