eISSN 2329-0358


Professor Tadeusz Orlowski – one of the pioneers in European nephrology and transplantation

A Heidland

Ann Transplant 2009; 14(1): 11-12

ID: 880237

Published: 2009-05-21

Tadeusz Orlowski was born on September 13th, 1917, in Kazan (Russia), as son of Prof. Witold Orlowski, the later founder of the Polish School of Internal
Medicine. The young Tadeusz studied medicine during the Second World War
in Warsaw and completed his physician diploma at the Medical Faculty of the
Josef Pilsudski Polish Underground University in 1943. In 1953 he introduced
peritoneal dialysis (together with Nielubowicz) and, five years later, hemodialysis for the treatment of acute renal failure. In 1954/55 he worked in Korea as Director of the Polish Red Cross Clinical Hospital in Hyn-Nam and Ham-Hyn. In the years 1959-1960, he was fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation at the Washington University of St. Louis. Orlowski became associate professor in 1962 and, at the age of 53, full professor (professor ordinarius) and Head of the First Clinic of Internal Medicine of the University of Warsaw. In 1966, a team led by him and Prof. Nielubowicz performed the first, successful cadaver kidney transplantation. Nine years later in 1975 Orlowski founded the first Polish Transplantation Institute in Warsaw and remained its head until his retirement in 1987. This leading transplantation institute - with all aspects of kidney, pancreas and liver transplantation - flourishes to this day under the guidance of Orlowski's successors: Professors M. Lao, W. Rowinski, M. Durlik, and L. Paczek. Prof. Orlowski was member of the Boards of the EDTA (1966-1969) and the International Society of Nephrology (1974-1976). In the years 1972-1980 he served as First Deputy of the Scientific Secretary of the Polish Academy of Sciences and also headed the Nephrological Commission of the Pathophysiological Committee for more than 20 years. In these positions, he invited numerous scientists from Western countries and facilitated the scientific stays of Polish doctors abroad. After retiring, Orlowski took on a professorship at the Institute of Biocybernetics and Biotechnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, where he continued his research until his death. Orlowski's scientific work encompassed a broad spectrum. First of all, we owe him our gratitude for safeguarding the research protocols of Jewish physicians on the hunger disease in the Warsaw Ghetto. After obtaining these records he buried them in the grounds of the hospital where his father worked and, after war's end, delivered the manuscripts to Dr. Emil Apfelbaum, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, who published them in 1946. rof. Orlowski's earliest scientific contributions (1951 and 1955) were related to primary glomerular diseases and congestive heart failure, where he also described the day-night rhythm of urine concentration and glomerular filtration rate. During his stay in St. Louis, Orlowski published - together with Neal Bricker - two JCI papers in 1960 about the influence of GFR on the renal concentrating mechanism and about the functional homogeneity of the nephron population in the experimentally diseased kidney of the dog. Later investigations dealt with renal function in the shock syndrome (1963), mercury nephrosis (1966), and the uremic lung syndrome in dogs with experimental acute renal failure (1974). He demonstrated a decline of type II pneumocytes and a disruption of the lung surfactant system as major pathogenetic factors in the absence of overhydration and congestive heart failure. In the 1980s Orlowski focused his research on immune suppression in primary glomerular diseases and immune modulation after transplantation. The latter investigations were presented on occasion of the International Congress of Nephrology in Los Angeles in 1984. Throughout the last two decades of his life, Orlowski's team worked with great commitment on new techniques for isolation, encapsulation and transplantation of islets of Langerhans in rats and pigs. Orlowski is author and co-author of more than 400 scientific publications and was chief editor of more than 10 textbooks. The Orlowski School of Medicine had an important impact on Polish and international nephrology and transplantation. Under his guidance, more than 20 habilitations were performed. Today many of his scholars occupy, or have occupied, prominent positions of nephrology. These include the professors: A. Sicinski, A. Gorski, M. Lao, L. Gradowska, L. Paczek, Z. Gaciong, and M. Durlik. In recognition of his achievements, Orlowski was awarded an honorary membership in several Polish and foreign medical societies, by the doctor honoris causa of the Medical Universities of Warsaw and Krakow and by the Polish National Prize for his merits in transplantation. Personally, since 1972 I had the privilege to be frequently invited to Warsaw by Prof. Orlowski and to establish and maintain early contacts with the nephrologists of the Transplantation Centre. He also organised, with the support of the Polish Academy of Sciences, visits of the other leading centres of nephrology in Poland, such as Katowice, Gdansk, Poznan, Wroclaw and Krakow. Any description about Prof. Orlowski would be incomplete without mentioning his most important hobby: mountain climbing. As a young man Orlowski enjoyed mountain climbing and established some very difficult, new routes in the High Tatra Mountains. He was regarded as the best Polish mountain climber of his generation. Tadeusz Orlowski was an impressive personality. We all remember his upright, assertive and steadfast character. He was a pioneer who, under difficult conditions (the Iron Curtain) made a big impact on nephrology and transplantation in Poland and on the international stage. We will always honour the memory of Tadeusz Orlowski.

Keywords: Transplantation