Gulf doctors meet to discuss latest thalassemia research

March 19, 2009

Courtesy by:

More than 60 Gulf doctors met with and heard from local and international thalassemia experts on Saturday to learn more about the latest treatments and medicines available to the Gulf’s thalassemia patients suffering from iron overload.

People with thalassemia can be found anywhere in the world, but they are most commonly found among particular ethnicities, including those persons of Middle Eastern or Gulf ancestry.

‘These events are an excellent opportunity to meet and review the latest research and treatments regarding thalassemia, in addition to networking with patients to see how their lives have been affected by these treatments,’

said Khaled Al Sheikh, Deputy Director General, Dubai Health Authority.

Many thalassemia patients must receive regular blood transfusions as part of their medical treatment, which puts them at risk for iron overload. Too much iron can lead to permanent organ damage of the liver, heart and endocrine glands, leading to more serious and life-threatening health problems.

The meeting, sponsored by Novartis Oncology and Dubai Thalassemia Center, centered on updates involving various aspects of iron overload:

– The biggest ever trial studies conducted in the field of iron chelation
– Latest data on iron removal from the heart
– Heavily iron overloaded patients from Oman and their response to medication

‘We have monitored thalassemia for more than 39 years in Dubai and the UAE, and have witnessed tremendous progress in providing needed support to patients in all different ways — starting from the early phases of disease detection to providing treatments that have been developed into their present formats. These treatments have helped to end patients’ suffering and to integrate them into normal society doing different activities,’ said Dr Abdulla Ibrahim Al Khayat, Senior Consultant (Pediatrics) & Director, Al Wasl Hospital.

Virgin Launches Stem-Cell Bank In Qatar

March 19, 2009

Courtesy by:

Doha , Qatar – March 8, 2009:  The benefits of stem cell therapies will soon be realised for the people of Qatar as Virgin Health Bank establishes a partnership with Qatar Science & Technology Park.

Qatar parents will be able to have their new born babies’ stem cells collected, processed and cryogenically stored. The stem cells are obtained from the blood remaining in the umbilical cord after birth and are already being used in treatments for 85 different medical conditions. Additionally stem cells are a major focus of medical research around the world and this is expected to add to the number of therapies available.

The announcement was welcomed by Qatar’s health authorities and religious leaders.

“Stem cells have already proven useful for fighting leukaemia, and are one of the most promising areas for future medical breakthroughs” said HE Dr. Ghalia Al Thani, Minister of Health. “The Ministry welcomes the Virgin blood bank because it increases the range of medical options available to Qatar’s population.”
Virgin Health Bank and Qatar’s medical authorities are exploring the use of the umbilical cord-blood stem cell bank as part of a national public-health program. Such a program would create the world’s first comprehensive source of stem cells for the indigenous Middle Eastern population and would for example, make it easier for clinicians to source a matched tissue typed stem cell unit when a transplant is needed.

Umbilical cord-blood stem cell transplants are increasingly being used in preference to bone marrow for conditions such as leukaemia and thalassemia. Evidence shows that umbilical cord blood stem-cell transplants result in fewer complications, reduced occurrences of graft-versus-host syndrome, and importantly, they are more readily available.

Because Virgin Health Bank’s process collects stem cells from ordinary umbilical cords, ethical considerations related to other sources of stem cells are avoided. Its model has been deemed compliant with Shariah law by a Qatar-based Islamic scholar.

Virgin Health Bank with the support of local institutes expects to start storing cord blood stem cell samples from Qatar within the next few months. The company, which was launched in the UK in 2007, will relocate its international headquarters to Qatar Science & Technology Park where it will build a state of the art processing and cryogenic storage facility.

Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari, Managing Director of Hamad Medical Corporation, said “Our goal is to increase the range and quality of public-health services available in Qatar. Virgin Health Bank marks a large step in this direction and I welcome its arrival.”

David Macauley, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Health Bank, said “We are delighted to have the opportunity to use our skills and technology to help realise the current and future benefits of stem cell therapies for the people of Qatar and to be working in partnership with QSTP, the Qatar Foundation and Qatar’s medical authorities to accomplish this”

Dr. Tidu Maini, Executive Chairman of Qatar Science & Technology Park, said “We are delighted that Virgin Health Bank is moving its global headquarters to Qatar. This is a significant decision, and a testament to Qatar’s ability to accelerate the world’s best medical science. The legacy of our partnership with Virgin will serve the health of Qatar’s citizens for years to come.”


March 19, 2009

Courtesy by:

Global marine terminal operator DP World reiterated its full support for the campaign to control the genetic blood disorder Thalassemia, when Mohammed Al Muallem, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, DP World, UAE Region, visited the Dubai Health Authority”s Thalassemia Centre to meet and interact with patients.

His visit further strengthens DP World’s year-old commitment to upgrade the facilities; recently providing the Centre with new beds for patients and the upcoming revamp of the recreation area.

Mr Al Muallem said: “DP World’s commitment to the campaign against Thalassemia is long-term.  By joining hands with Dubai Health Authority and the Thalassemia Centre, we are keen to ensure that the patients receive the best of services and care. Our on-going support for Thalassemia Centre will allow it to continue to improve its facilities and ensure that patients affected by Thalassemia are in a positive environment to receive their treatment.

We believe that success in any field must ultimately benefit the community. It is this vision that drives DP World to reach out to those who are in need of support.”

Dr. Khawla Belhoul, Director of Thalassemia Centre, Dubai Health Authority, said: “We are thankful for the visit by Mr. Mohammed Al Muallem to the Thalassemia Centre. His exchange with the patients and their parents reflects the genuine concern DP World has for their wellbeing.  Dubai Health Authority is aware of the extent of DP World’s commitment to the Centre and its contributions to the patients. We are grateful for the support to our renovation works, and today’s visit reassures us that it will continue far into the future.”

Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder that is more prevalent in the UAE than in other parts of the world.  DP World’s Thalassemia campaign was launched in early 2008, the ongoing initiative includes blood donations, programmes to spread awareness and support for those currently living with Thalassemia.

GCC doctors urge couples to get marriage blood tests

March 19, 2009

Courtesy by:

Doctors in the Middle East are renewing their call for couples in the region to get blood test screening done before marriage in an effort to detect whether they are carriers of Thalassemia, the most common, inherited single gene disorder in the world.

‘If both potential parents have the thalassemia trait, there is a 25% chance their child will be born with the severe form of thalassemia. Sadly, parents who don’t get tested sometimes only find out they carry the thalassemia trait after their child is born with the disease,’,

says Dr. Essam Dohair, Coordinator, Dubai Thalassemia Center.

People with thalassemia are found anywhere in the world, but it is most commonly found among particular ethnicities, including those persons of Middle Eastern or Gulf ancestry.

Further complications ensue if thalassemia is not detected or treated properly. Most types of thalassemia cause red blood cells to be slightly smaller than usual, leading to a condition called microcytosis. Since iron deficiency most commonly causes microcytosis, doctors often mistakenly misdiagnose thalassemia as an iron deficiency and prescribe iron supplements.

Thalassemia and iron deficiency are different problems. Before doctors prescribe iron supplements, they should perform lab tests to evaluate iron levels and rule out thalassemia with blood screening.

Many thalassemia patients must receive regular blood transfusions as part of their medical treatment, which puts them at risk for iron overload. Too much iron can lead to permanent organ damage of the liver, heart and endocrine glands, leading to more serious and life-threatening health problems.

‘Early detection and comprehensive treatment have changed thalassemia from a fatal pediatric disease to one in which patients can live productive lives as an adult, thanks to medical advances,’ says Dr. Dohair. ‘However, many people in the Middle East are unaware of their genetic risk of thalassemia and need better information about comprehensive screening tests and treatment, including blood transfusion.’

Hereditary blood disease cases falling

March 19, 2009

Courtesy by:

NEW cases of people in Bahrain suffering from the hereditary blood diseases sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia have dropped dramatically, Health Minister Dr Faisal Al Hamer told MPs yesterday.

The number of new sickle cell anaemia patients dropped from 913 in 2002 to 247 in 2007, a fall of by 73p per cent, he told parliament.

New thalassemia patients dropped by 84pc, from 95 to 15, over the same five years.

“The number of newborns with sickle cell anaemia in 2007 was 0.4pc compared to the total number of newborns for that year, which is a drop from 1.6pc in 2002,” said Dr Al Hamer. “Thalassemia newborns were just 0.04pc in 2007 compared to 1.5pc in 2002.”

He said the ministry was providing the best treatment for the patients.

“We currently have 40 beds for sickle anaemia cases and are currently working on a new unit at the Salmaniya Medical Complex’s Accidents and Emergency Unit,” said Dr Al Hamer, in response to an MP’s question on the situation.

“A special unit for children with sickle cell anaemia is already operating at the Jidhafs Health Centre.”

Dr Al Hamer said Bahrain has records of sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia patients from 2002 until last year. “There are 2,939 sickle cell anaemia and 223 thalassemia patients,” he said.

“The ministry has dealt with 8,382 sickle cell anaemia cases over the six- year period, in addition to 263 thalassemia cases.

“A total of 135 sickle cell anaemia patients have died, while four patients have died from other complications.

“Twenty-three thalassemia patients have died over the past six years, with one patient dying from other causes.”

Dr Al Hamer said the ministry had investigated nine cases of malpractice since 2005.

“One case was investigated in 2005 and malpractice was not found. The same happened in 2006 with one case and the medical team was cleared. But in 2007, a doctor was found negligent after the death of a patient,” he said. “Last year, six cases were investigated and two have ended with the medical team in the first being cleared and guilty in the second, while four cases were still going on. Those who are found guilty face criminal charges.”

Advances made in cord blood research: Expert

March 19, 2009

Courtesy by:

DOHA: Regenerative Medicine using human cord blood has been advancing greatly over the last 20 years, according to an expert. The stem cell researches are giving hope to many diseases according Professor Colin McGuckin (pictured), President and director, Cell Therapy Research Institute, France.

“20 years ago cord blood was used only to treat leukemia and for bone marrow transplant,” said McGuckin. “Now 85 different diseases can be treated using the blood. Sickle cell anemia and thalassemia can be completely cured using the cell therapy.”

The researches are now focusing on many diseases which have been difficult to correct “Currently stem cell researches for Type I diabetes treatment is under trail. In America 24 children are benefiting from the trail research though not cured. Seven university hospitals across Europe are researching on how stroke is caused by using models of stem cells to make stroke. In future it could also help to treat stroke. Several countries are doing clinical trails for treating cerebral palsy,” he told The Peninsula.

Cord blood banking should be taken seriously he stressed. “Only a few countries boost of having this facility now. If this goes in the future only the countries in the west will access to these facilities. This will be a terrible situation when a huge majority will be left behind without any hope. These banks should be developed and a world wide network of these banks should be established.”

The blood banking is done for the future generation. “If the cord blood is stored, it can help in the cure of many diseases. We have to the think about the health protection for the future. Since these things are new, the governments should have to plan much ahead to look after the future of the people. They should look ahead into the future not just curing the present,” he said.

The Hamad Medical Corporation will launch a cord blood banking system attached to the bone marrow transplant unit in few months.

“Qatar should make sure that it has the best facilities in the world for starting a cord blood banking system. They should link with best cord blood banks that already do this work else where. It’s always best to be linked with those who have been doing this rather than starting from the scratch as it would involve more expertise, expenses and time. Qatar can do a very good as the hospital system here is almost centralised and the population is comparatively low. The quicker you start, more children you can save in the future,” he said.

CMCH wields pioneering scalpel

March 19, 2009

Courtesy by: timesofindia

LUDHIANA: In what comes as good news for those afflicted with blood cancer, thalassemia and many other diseases that require blood transplants and transfusion, Christian Medical College & Hospital (CMCH) has become the first hospital in Punjab after PGI to offer allogeneic stem cell transplants. The advanced procedure, expected to draw patients from across the world, was performed on 33-year-old Binder Pal, a blood cancer patient who was referred to the hospital from Abu Dhabi.

“With this successful bone marrow stem cell transplant, well be able to help a large number of patients, especially those suffering from blood cancer, thalassemia and diseases involving infection of blood. Besides me, all other members of the team of doctors who performed the transplant should be given credit. This accomplishment will go a long way in enhancing medical facilities for those afflicted with deadly diseases”, said Dr Joseph John, who after completing MBBS and MD at CMC, Ludhiana, completed DM in clinical haematology at CMC, Vellore.

About the expenses involved in the transplant, the doctor said it could cost the patient Rs 8-10 lakh. He added the transplant enhances chances of a person being cured by almost over 40% and that it was only in very few cases that the transplant was needed to be repeated. He also termed the same as a saving grace for thalassaemia patients, who have to run from pillar to post arranging for blood.

Dr John said, “Though the costs involved are lower than in other parts of the world, we?ll be working towards bringing it further down.” He claimed the same transplant would cost US $ 450,000 in Seattle, whereas in India, it is available at $18,000. “Even then, we are working towards bringing down the cost for the citizens of our country, especially those who cannot afford the treatment. But that can take some time”, he added.

Meanwhile, Binder, the first patient to have successfully undergone the transplant at CMCH, said, “I am happy as I feel much better and more energetic and can now hope to be rid of this deadly disease (blood cancer). I was at the hospital for three months and came for tests every week. I will leave for Dubai after another three months and am grateful to the doctors here.”

NA may legislate pre-marital blood screening law soon

March 19, 2009

Courtesy by:

* Draft of law suggests Rs 50,000-100,000 fine, 6 month-one year jail for violators

By Afnan Khan

LAHORE: The National Assembly may soon introduce legislation regarding pre-marital blood screening to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, thalassemia, hepatitis and other diseases that are transmitted through genetic abnormalities; blood transmission; and sexual relations, sources within the National Assembly said on Tuesday.

They said the government would impose stern punishment to enforce the law, which would be binding on every Pakistani couple. The punishments would range from a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 100,000; six months to a year’s imprisonment; or both. Parliament is also planning on adding a provision to the law to collect the medical history of all Pakistanis deported from foreign countries, especially the Middle East, upon their arrival at airports. The sources said this was necessary as many people are deported from Middle Eastern countries after being found positive for HIV, hepatitis C, etc. Such people rarely inform the government or their families of these conditions to escape stigma and can thus spread the infections, they added.

The parliamentary sources said the law would be implemented through the thousands of basic health units (BHUs) functioning throughout the country. They said the officials working in these BHUs to keep a check on people violating the law.

The Standing Committee for Health in the National Assembly is due to meet today (Wednesday) to discuss the final timetable for placement of the bill before parliament and conduct a final debate on its pros and cons. According to committee Chairman Yasmeen Rehman, they would also discuss the issue of spurious drugs; shortage of life-saving medicine; and the high prices of medicines being sold by multinational companies.

She told Daily Times the committee had already drawn up the outline and major clauses of pre-marital blood screening law. She said passage of this law would ensure the safety of future generations from several deadly diseases.

MoU to explore adult treatment options of cord stem cells

March 19, 2009
Courtesy by: timesofindia
CHENNAI: Researchers will soon attempt to expand the therapeutic gains of cord blood stem cells currently used to treat diseases like blood cancer and thalassemia in children to help adults.
City-based Jeevan Stem Cell Bank inked an MoU with Nichi-In Centre for Regenerative Medicine (NCRM), Japan here on Monday to conduct joint research on expansion’ of stored cord blood stem cells and related applications. Expansion is the process of increasing the number of cells per unit of blood using laboratory methods.”While one unit of cord blood containing 500 million stem cells is needed for a treatment of a child weighing below 40 kg, treatment of an adult needs at least two units. It is difficult to get so much blood from the same matching cord and hence the need for expansion,” said Jeeven Stem Cell Bank medical director Dr Saranya Narayan.

With research on expanded cord blood cells taking place across the world and findings being published in medical journals, it is possible to take this step in India, NCRM director Dr Samuel Abraham said.

Since NCRM remained an Indo-Japan joint venture institute, the MoU would pave the way for collaboration with Japanese hematologists who had vast experience in the clinical application of stem cells derived from the umbilical cord, Dr Abraham added.

According to Kazuo Minagawa, consul-general of Japan, the umbilical cord was preserved in Japanese tradition in memory of a newborn.

Country’s first public stem cell bank opens in city, poor to get free therapy

March 19, 2009

Courtesy by: timesofindia

CHENNAI: The country’s first public stem cell bank, which would store stem cells extracted from a newborn’s umbilical cord for common use, was inaugurated here on Thursday. The cells, which are collected from the blood from umbilical cord soon after childbirth, are preserved at -196 degrees Celsius in liquid nitrogen.

While mothers can store the blood for private use for a cost, they would be charged nothing if they donate it to the public bank. These cells are capable of developing into different kinds of cells and tissues, offering new treatment methods for serious disorders including blood cancer.

Member of parliament Kanimozhi inaugurate Jeevan Stem Cell Bank, a unit of Jeevan Blood Bank. “Stem cells have a shelf life of 21 years. As of now, there is 80% cure from stem cell therapy for diseases like blood cancer and Thalassemia. In the future, it may be possible to use these cells to grow damaged tissues or organs. It has a potential of curing more than 70 medical conditions,” said Dr P Srinivasan, managing trustee, Jeevan Blood Bank.

The Bank has assured that it would collect, test, process and store at least 30,000 units of stem cells from cord blood in five years. Under the scheme, 70% of the bank’s capacity will be used for public storage and 30% for private storage to cross subsidise and make it viable. Parents would pay Rs 70,000 to cord blood for 21 years of exclusive use.

“Stem cells from the bank would be made available free of cost for people living below the poverty line. Others will be charged Rs 1 lakh per unit. We have adopted a working model after studying several ones abroad,” said Jeevan Blood Bank medical director Saranya Narayan. The charge, she said, is less than one eighth of that of banks abroad.

“When I got my son a unit (23 ml) of stem cells for a blood disease he suffered when he was four years old, I paid Rs 8 lakh to a bank in Singapore. We decided to run the house on a shoestring budget to buy the unit. That was in 2003. I wish this bank was available then,” said K Kandan, father of eight-year-old Avinash.

Cord blood donors, like blood donors, should be free of infections like HIV and Hepatitis. We do PCR test and nuclear testing of the blood to ensure that it is safe. “These cells will be given to any person who needs them, provided there is a tissue match. We will make available a portion of the cells collected for research as well,” said Dr Srinivasan.

The facility has been set up at a cost of Rs 2 crore. Rs 1.4 crore came as a loan without collateral from a private bank, while the rest came as donations from organisations and interest-free loans from well wishers. While the bank is sure of getting revenue from several research organisations and hospitals, it is also looking at alternative sources of revenue. “We have identified a few. Besides research, grants from the Centre and state government, NRIs, public, philanthropists and corporates are other possible revenue sources,” he said.

%d bloggers like this: