A long but successful journey of Kerala’s blood disorder patients

March 31, 2010

Courtesy by: twocircles.net

They traveled three thousand kms by train taking three days and two nights to reach NewDelhi, the capital city of India. One of the main motivations behind this journey was 4th International Conference on Thalassemia which took place on 31st October and 1st November 2009 at Hotel Intercontinental Eros New Delhi. Actually they came to New Delhi not for attending the conference. They couldn’t speak or understand English or Hindi, the national language of the country. Most members of them were Thalassemia afflicted patients and their parents. Some were other blood disorder patients like Sickle cell anemia, Hemophilia, Applastic anemia and Leukemia.

Kerala is a small state with 3crores of population in utmost southern part of India. Kerala is not only a role model state in health services in India but also a complete literacy state in the nation. In the tourism map it is known as God’s own country. In Kerala near about fifty percent of population belong to Hindu religion community. Above 20% are Christians and above 25% are Muslims. The communist ideology is ruling this small state in alternative five years term getting elected by the people for last 25 years. Rest of the period after Independence has been ruled by the Indian National Congress. The communal fabrication with social amity and the peaceful social life is the salient feature of this small state. No space here for communal violence or hatred in the name of religion, caste or creed.

One of the major achievements in health sector is the low child mortality rate. But this phenomenon rises the morbidity rate of children same as the developed countries. But unlike the developed countries Kerala has no facilities to prevent or to avoid this like morbidity rate by using new technologies like antenatal diagnosis. These pathetic situation causes to rise various kinds of hereditary disorder disease like Thalassemia, Sickle cell anemia, Hemophilia and different kinds of birth defects. In Wayanad, a hill district of Tribal people in north Kerala alone, about five thousand persons are suffering from sickle cell disease among the tribal. Twenty thousand carriers among the tribal are the major threat in the health sector in the future years in hereditary disease.

Even though the prevalence of blood disorder patients is very high in north Kerala especially in Malabar region no sufficient facilities are available in hematology check up and no service of hematologist in this state.

Blood Patients’ Protection Council (BPPC) is an organization of acutely blood disorder patients like Thalassemia, Hemophilia, Leukemia, Sickle cell anemia and their parents have been fighting for the better treatment, life saving drugs and vital right of these patients for the past fifteen years. For achieving the birth right of patients many agitations were organized like road blockade including a state Secretariat march by traveling 800 km by BPPC. But the Govt. took a stubborn position against the patient’s demand. That was the one reason compelling the patients to travel to New Delhi by declaring a parliament march.

They raised slogans demanding better treatment and life saving drugs for acutely ill patients and demonstrated towards the Indian parliament on 29th October 2009. The patients raised 10 point demands including the set up of an antenatal screening facilities at Calicut medical college hospital where depends 1.5 crore people for better treatment in Malabar area and some part of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu state. Near about 100 blood disorder patients and their parents took part in the parliament march. Delhi police blocked their march with barricade at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. The march was organised by BPPC under the leadership of Kareem Karassery, the General Convener of BPPC.

Tom Vadakkan, Secretary, Indian National Congress, the ruling party of India inaugurated the march. After the march, the participants rushed to All India Congress Committee Office New Delhi. Patients and their parents expressed their grievances and the miseries due to lack of expert treatment, life saving drugs and other ill feelings before the eminent leaders and office bearers of the ruling party (AICC) of India.

Dr. Shakheel Ahmed spokesperson of the ruling party addressed an elaborate press conference with the blood disorder patients and their parents from Kerala at AICC office. AICC Secretary Tom Vadakkan was also present in the crowded press conference. Dr. Shakheel Ahmad assured the acutely ill children and their parents from Kerala that the Govt. of India and the health and family welfare department will take urgent step to solve the 10 points demand raised by BPPC Kerala. They would bring the matter before the president of the Congress party Sonia Gandhi, central health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad and AICC gen. secretary Rahul Gandhi immediately. Only after achieving the assurance from the ruling party head quarters the patients and the parents returned from there.

The following day patients visited all monumental and significant tourism places in Delhi with their parents. They also visited Indian Parliament. Some office bearers of BPPC were delegates of the International Conference on Thalassemia at Hotel Intercontinental Eros. Due to the medium of conference and instructions was English/Hindi rest of the members of this team couldn’t register or attend the conference and same day they went to Agra and visited the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world and other world heritage monuments like Agra Fort and well known pilgrimage center like Madura Temple etc. This journey was very pleasant for the children who are suffering with fatal diseases, especially for school going students. Parents also enjoyed this trip as great relief and relax from their painful fate of prolonged life.

On 2nd October 2009 all patients and their parents were attended in the Thalassemia clinic at Sir Gangaram hospital which was constituted by the part of International conference on Thalassemia for the registered patients. But most of our patients or their parents were not registered in the conference. Yet, Dr. V.K. Khanna, Head, Department of Hematology, Sir Gangaram hospital agreed to check up all patients even in the busy day.

The patients got a thorough check up and well medical advice from the clinic. Ms. Shoba Tuli, vice president of Thalassemia International federation helped for facilitating the check-up. Dr. P.M. Kutty, President, Malabar THAS Society, Dr. V.T. Ajith Kumar treasurer of the society also helped to make this check up a reality. The hospital authority served good delicious snacks to the patients. They returned from the hospital after the check up was over with the immense gratitude to the Gangaram hospital especially to Dr. V.K. Khanna. Many Malayalam Language dailies published this news of events with the group photograph of patients with Dr Khanna.

The following day all patients and their parents returned from New Delhi after a week-long tremendous mission and good feelings with significant knowledge to their home state by train. We reached on 5th October without any inconvenience. The journey was good with songs, jokes and dance of children.

When we reached Calicut a letter from Union Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad reached to Calicut. He said in his letter that he has examined the matter and would get back to us shortly. In another letter sent by the secretary of All India Congress Committee (AICC) Rama Chandra Kundiya, MP, mentioned that Sonia Gandhi, President, AICC, forwarded the application submitted by BPPC to the health minister.

Along with these responses a breakthrough occurred in the health field of Kerala.

Ms. P.K. Sreemathi, health minister of Kerala declared that all acutely ill patients below eighteen years of age will get free treatment from Jan 2010 without considering their income. Besides, central health minister informed the local MP M.K. Ragavan that he sanctioned Rs 3 crore for the development of oncology department at MCH, Kozhikkode with immediate effect. The annual central budget allocated a considerable amount for the development of public health sector.

Blood disorder patients and their parents believe that the multi-purpose journey to New Delhi was not in vain. They are expecting more from the Central and State Government.

(Kareem Karassery is General Convener, Blood Patients’ Protection Council, Malabar Zone, Kerala, India, and can be contacted on 9447019182)

Stem cell bank gets harvesting equipment

November 30, 2009

Courtesy by: expressbuzz.com

CHENNAI: A city-based stem cell bank on Wednesday urged the Rotary Foundation to add stem cells to the bouquet of projects it runs at the national level. Dr Saranya Narayan, co-founder and medical director of Jeevan Blood Bank and Research Centre, made the request after receiving a stem cell harvesting equipment that was donated by the Rotary Club of Madras East, along with RI District 3230, Rotary Foundation and Rotary Club of Makati Ayala. The equipment, costing about Rs 25 lakh, will be used to recover stem cells from cord blood donated to Jeevan’s stem cell bank.

With 42,000 registered childbirths everyday, India can contribute substantially towards the cure of blood and blood-related diseases through stem cells, Dr Narayan said. Stem cells, she said, could be used to treat both thalassemia and leukemia.

Speaking on the club’s anti-polio efforts, Rotarian W Anand, governor, RI District 3230, said the disease could be eradicated in India in three years, with efforts by both the Rotary Foundation and the Indian government.

Recalling the Rotary Foundation’s global role in the eradication of polio, Anand said serious efforts should be made to make India polio-free.

City hospital starts OPD for blood-related diseases

November 12, 2009

Courtesy by: timesofindia

AHMEDABAD: Sterling Hospital on Wednesday launched a dedicated OPD for bone marrow transplantation and diseases of blood to coincide with the completion of 10 hematopoietic stem cell transplantations (HSCT).

“HSCT is used to treat many conditions. Some of the common acquired conditions are leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, aplastic anaemia and thalassemia major,” head of bone marrow transplant department at the hospital, Dr Uday Deotare, said.

“A transplant offers a chance for cure or long-term remission if the inherent complications of graft versus host disease, immuno-suppressive treatments and the spectrum of opportunistic infections can be survived,” Dr Urmish Chudgar said.

Blood disorder patients from Kerala’s Malabar march to Parliament

October 30, 2009

Courtesy by: twocircles.net

New Delhi: Chronic blood disorder patients and their parents from Kerala’s Malabar region today unsuccessfully tried to march towards the Indian Parliament to press the central government for their long pending demand of free and expert treatment to them whom the state government has so far neglected.

The protestors comprising women and children under the banner of Blood Patients’ Protection Council (BPPC) submitted a memorandum to the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad demanding the government to provide free treatment to these patients suffering with deadly diseases like thalassemia, haemophilia sickle cell anemia, applastic anemia, leukemia etc.

BPPC has been fighting for better treatment to these patients of Malabar region for the last 15 years. The group has undertaken many agitations including a state secretariat march on February 28, 2001 with terminally ill patients demanding free and expert treatment from Calicut MCH. The Kerala Government has not shown interest to solve the problem. Now they have decided to take out a Parliament march.

Talking to TwoCircles.net Kareem Karassery, General Convener, BPPC, said: “For the last one and half decades we have been fighting for life saving drugs and expert treatment to these acute blood disorder patients but neither the state nor central government have so far heeded to our demand. So we have arrived here to highlight our issue at the national level.” More than 10,000 people are suffering from various blood disorders in Malabar region, he added.

The protestors have put 10 demands before the government. They include urgent prevention of genetic blood disorders and other birth disorders which are alarmingly growing Malabar area, setting up a health insurance for the complete treatment of acutely ill patients irrespective of their income or age limit, proper facilities for treatment of the related diseases at the MCH Calicut.

And my name is blood

July 13, 2009

Courtesy by: defimedia.info

I not only accompany you from the womb to the tomb, but I am intricately linked to your very conception.  If not for the role that I play during the sexual act, no man would have been able to impregnate a woman through the natural process.

It is under the pressure of my flow that the pineal organ will give the erection, and consequently the eja­culation, through which semen is transferred to the woman’s vaginal walls, and mate with ova. Even in the woman I play a very vital role. I flow to the vaginal walls and the cervix, and the clitoris, the primordial organ in the initiation of the woman’s ejaculation, which in turn facilitates penetration.

If not for my presence in the uterus of a woman, no foetus would have been able to grow into a baby. Interestingly, each time a baby is born, I am one of the first things which accompany it for I come out from the uterus, along with the new-born.

Social existence
Apart from my biological purports, I also have a grand social existence. There are many people who say that “blood is thicker than water.” Here it is implied that in good and bad times, family members always stand by each other. However, I get sceptical over this issue when I see the rising rate of matricide, patricide, fratricide, sororicide, filicide, uxoricide, mariticide and other related kin homicide.

For aeons, especially through legends, myths, and literature, I have always been a subject of contempt. Legends have it that blood-sucking creatures like vampires would kill human beings to drink their blood. As time evolved, I was turned into an associate of witchdoctors.

They would cure the afflicted by evil spirits by offering blood to their deity. Unfortunately, this practice is still in vogue in the 21st Century. There are millions around the globe to resort to blood offering so as to come out of their problems. Due to this barbarous method of bringing solutions to problems, many innocent people, especially children, have been killed and their blood offered to some deity.

Interestingly, I have built an amazing network of audience and readers who devour blood-related narratives. Many Shakespearean plays evolve around me. Throughout the ages people have been relishing dramas like The Merchant of Venice where a pound of flesh is to be cut without shedding a single drop of blood. There were also tragic love stories like Romeo and Ju­liet where the Mon­ta­gu and the Capulet families are ever ready to shed the blood of the other. I have also created a big impact on spectators, and readers, through the play entitled Macbeth where blood remains a very powerful metaphor throughout its duration.

As time went by, I became a very interesting and acclaimed topic in the world of books. Very few of you would be able to say that you never read a book by the specialist in the thriller genre, Christopher Pike whose bloody stories most probably gave you goosebumps.

Still, as time elapsed, I paved my way into the cinematographic media. Whether in Hollyrood, Bollywood or Tollyrood, I have most certainly become a craze amidst the masses.

In food items
Did you know that people consume me? Yes, they do. Some cultures consume me as food, often in combination with meat. This may be in the form of blood soup, as a thickener for sauces, a cured salted form for times of food scarcity. There are blood sausages or blood puddings, blood stews, blood pancakes, and others. I can also be fried and eaten fresh, right away after the animal is slaughtered. However, some cultures consider blood to be a taboo form of food. In Jewish  and Muslim cultures, for instance, consuming me is forbidden by religious law.

As you can see, I am omnipresent in your lives in more than one way. However, there remains an aspect of me which interests very few people. I am here referring to myself as a life-saver. I hold the capacity of saving your lives upon need. But that is only if you volunteer to share me with others. I find that there are quite a few of you who have actually shared me with others.

Remember, I may be needed anytime, anywhere and by anyone. Let’s take the example of diseases which require me to play a primary part. Bone marrow, Thalassemia and Haemophilus are some examples of the diseases which are linked to me. Then there are also and always patients with severe trauma and loss of blood, or  anemic patients who need blood transfusion.

Voluntary donors’ number is growing
Let us see what Subhanand Seegoolam, president of the Blood Donors’ Association (BDA), has to say about blood donation in Mauritius.

“Only 5% of the Mauritian population are regular donors,” says  Seegoolam. That is why this organisation is always making earnest appeals to volunteers to come forth to donate blood. “Yearly there are some 800 patients who go for dialysis and some 400-450 who need blood transfusion during surgical operations,” he says.
Seegoolam says many persons are indifferent towards  blood donation. According to him, many people remain insensitive to the problem unless and until their own kith and kin require blood. That is why the appeal for donating blood should be constant.

This year, on the occasion of the Blood Donors’ Day, emphasis has been laid on the sensitisation of the youths, aged between 18-25 years. “Last year we collected 46 000 pints. This year, our target is 50 000,” says Seegoolam.
He adds that during winter season, there are less blood donors. “However, we cannot forget road accident victims, and women with difficult delivery. These are two frequent cases where blood transfusion is badly needed,” he says.
Donating one’s blood is the greatest gesture that one can do to mankind. “When we give our blood, we do not know to whom it will be going, and this feeling of joy at having helped someone in time of need cannot be compared to any other feeling,” he says.

One interesting and encouraging sign is that  compared to 10 years back when there were only 30% of blood donors, the rate of volunteers has now increased by 50%.

Researchers Discover New Source of Stem Cells

July 13, 2009

Courtesy by: voanews.com

A new study reveals the human placenta, the birthsack that nourishes the fetus in the uterus before it is born, could be an important source of stem cells for curing leukemia, sickle cell disease and other blood-related disorders.

Scientists at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California, obtained discarded placentas from consenting women who had had cesarean sections, or surgeries to remove their newborns before birth.

They siphoned off the blood that circulates throughout the placenta and then extracted stem cells or master cells that can be coaxed with hormones to grow into any kind of tissue in the body. Scientists have been looking for new sources of stem cells because they have the potential to cure a number of diseases, including diabetes.

But in the case of sickle cell disease or thalassemia, a disorder that primarily strikes people of Mediterranean descent, the placental stem cells are already programmed to produce fresh blood after they are infused into patients.

Senior scientist Frans Kuypers at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, along with Vladimir Serikov, says the research involving placental stem cells was an attempt to prove that they have the potential to cure blood disorders.

“So, yes they are there, and that’s all nice. But the more important part is we can get them out,” said Kuypers. “We can get many of them out and we can get them out in a viable form. And can show that these cells are able to transplant and able to engraft. And the impact of that is that we will be able to provide a resource for stem cells to a much larger patient population.”

Physicians at the Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland have taken stem cells from the umbilical cord blood of newborns to cure their older siblings of blood-related disorders.

But researchers say there aren’t enough of these valuable stem cells in a unit of cord blood to meet the needs of those with serious blood diseases, such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia.  On the other hand, they say a unit of placental blood contains five times as many stem cells as cord blood.

Although a bone marrow transplant can provide an alternative treatment, many patients cannot find a matching donor.

Researchers say one big advantage of stem cells from placentas is that they are less likely to trigger the strong immune system response as stem cells from bone marrow – a response that can lead to rejection.

Kuypers says placental stem cells have a number of other advantages.

“These cells, they are absolutely not controversial in contrast to embryonic stem cells because these are cells that nobody would have a problem with using those cells in any shape or form, which is not necessarily the case with embryonic stem cells,” he said. “And more importantly to date, nobody has been cured with an embryonic stem cell and we have been curing people with cord blood-derived stem cells for awhile now. And this just opens up a much bigger opportunity for patients who need it.”

Despite the promise of placental stem cells, their widespread use is probably several years away. Children’s Hospital is now seeking funds to conduct clinical trials in humans.

Placentas may offer richer source for stem cells

July 13, 2009

Courtesy by: CTV.ca

CTV.ca News Staff

Researchers in the U.S. say they may have found a new and better source for harvesting stem cells: the placentas that are often discarded after birth.

The research from Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland found there are far more stem cells in placentas than in umbilical cord blood, the traditional source for stem cells, and they can be safely extracted for transplantation.

“Yes, the stem cells are there; yes, they are viable; and yes, we can get them out,” declared Dr. Frans Kuypers, one of the scientists who led the research with fellow scientist Vladimir Serikov.

The study was conducted using placentas from healthy women undergoing elective Caesarean section. It will be the feature story in the July 2009 issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine.

The scientists said it is highly likely the cells could be used in therapies to cure chronic blood-related disorders such as sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and leukemia.

One of the limits of umbilical cord blood is that the stem cells it contains are few in number. That makes the likelihood that they can be used to cure a blood disorder in adults fairly slim. Researchers hope that stem cells from the placenta will provide a bigger supply.

Kuypers explained that even when a patient receives a cord blood transplant, there may not be enough stem cells in the umbilical cord to successfully treat their disorder.

“The greater supply of stem cells in placentas will likely increase the chance that an HLA (human leukocyte antigen) matched unit of stem cells engrafts, making stem cell transplants available to more people. The more stem cells, the bigger the chance of success,” said Kuypers.

Kuypers and Serikov have developed a patent-pending method that will allow the freezing of placentas to store them in a way that allows them to later be defrosted and to enable the extraction of viable stem cells. The method will make it possible for companies to gather, ship and store placentas in a central location.

“We’re looking for a partnership with industry to get placenta-derived stem cells in large quantities to the clinic,” said Kuypers in a statement.

He added that while more research is needed to explore the maximum potential of this latest discovery, he is optimistic his work will lead to cures.

“Someday, we will be able to save a lot more kids and adults from these horrific blood disorders.”

Children’s Hospital Oakland Scientists First to Discover New Source for Harvesting Stem Cells

July 13, 2009

Courtesy by: newswise.com

Newswise — A groundbreaking study conducted by Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland is the first to reveal a new avenue for harvesting stem cells – from a woman’s placenta, or more specifically the discarded placentas of healthy newborns. The study also finds there are far more stem cells in placentas than in umbilical cord blood, and they can be safely extracted for transplantation. Furthermore, it is highly likely that placental stem cells, like umbilical cord blood and bone marrow stem cells, can be used to cure chronic blood-related disorders such as sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and leukemia.

The study, led by Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland scientists Frans Kuypers, PhD, and Vladimir Serikov, PhD, will be the feature story in the July 2009 issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine. The doctors and their team made the discoveries by harvesting term placentas from healthy women undergoing elective Cesarean sections. “Yes, the stem cells are there; yes, they are viable; and yes, we can get them out,” declared Dr. Kuypers.

Stem cells are essentially blank cells that can be transformed into any type of cell such as a muscle cell, a brain cell, or a red blood cell. Using stem cells from umbilical cord blood, Children’s Hospital Oakland physicians have cured more than 100 kids with chronic blood-related diseases through their sibling donor cord blood transplantation program, which began in 1997. However, according to the American Cancer Society, each year at least 16,000 people with serious blood- related disorders are not able to receive the bone marrow or cord blood transplant they need because they can’t find a match.

Dr. Kuypers explained that even when a patient receives a cord blood transplant, there may not be enough stem cells in the umbilical cord to successfully treat their disorder. Placentas, however, contain several times more stem cells than umbilical cord blood. “The greater supply of stem cells in placentas will likely increase the chance that an HLA (human leukocyte antigen) matched unit of stem cells engrafts, making stem cell transplants available to more people. The more stem cells, the bigger the chance of success,” said Dr. Kuypers.

Drs. Kuypers and Serikov have also developed a patent-pending method that will allow placental stem cells to be safely harvested and made accessible for transplantation. The process involves freezing placentas in a way that allows them to later be defrosted and suffused with a compound that enables the extraction of viable stem cells. The method will make it possible for companies to gather, ship and store placentas in a central location. “We’re looking for a partnership with industry to get placenta-derived stem cells in large quantities to the clinic,” said Dr. Kuypers. He adds that much more research and grant funding are needed to explore the maximum potential of this latest discovery. He remains encouraged. “Someday, we will be able to save a lot more kids and adults from these horrific blood disorders.”

About Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland
Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland is Northern California’s only freestanding and independent children’s hospital. Children’s is the leader in many pediatric specialties including neonatology, cardiology, neurosurgery and intensive care. The hospital is a designated Level 1 pediatric trauma center and has the largest pediatric critical care facility in the region. Children’s Hospital has 190 licensed beds, 201 hospital-based physicians in 30 specialties, more than 2,611 employees and an operating budget of $312 million. Children’s research arm, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, has about 300 staff members and an annual budget of more than $49 million. Primary research funding comes from the National Institutes of Health. The institute is a leader in translational research, bench discoveries to bedside applications, developing new vaccines for infectious diseases and discovering new treatment protocols for previously fatal or debilitating conditions such as cancers, sickle cell disease and thalassemia, diabetes, asthma, HIV/AIDS, pediatric obesity, nutritional deficiencies, birth defects, hemophilia and cystic fibrosis.

Dubai’s first private pediatric oncology clinic to establish cancer tumor registry

April 29, 2009

Courtesy by: ameinfo.com

The first dedicated specialist pediatric Oncology/ Hematology centre in Dubai’s private healthcare sector has become fully operational and will establish a tumor registry to collect data and help build knowledge in the Gulf and Middle East, tracking cancer patients and the outcome of their treatment.

The Pediatric Oncology specialist clinic at the American Hospital Dubai is already treating children and adolescents up to the age of 18 and providing support to patient families, as part of the department of Hematology and Oncology in the Cancer Care Center at the hospital.

‘We are winning the war against several childhood cancers,’ says Head of the new service, Dr Nidal Mahgoub, American Board Certified Consultant Pediatrician Oncologist/ Hematologist, who recently joined the hospital from the US.

‘In the US for example, the cure rate for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is very high; around 85-90 per cent of patients can live free of cancer with the proper treatment.

Most child cancer survival rates have improved significantly. The key to success is providing the right treatment and we believe our new clinic will make a significant contribution to the region by providing US quality care for our young patients.’

The Pediatric Oncology/Hematology clinic is a multidisciplinary unit that treats cancer cases including leukaemia and solid tumors together with blood disorders – such as Sickle cell anemia, Haemophilia and Thalassemia – amongst children and adolescents.

The dedicated unit provides a wide range of treatment options including chemotherapy, immune-therapy, psychological support and palliative care.

The hospital’s plan is to expand the unit and establish a Regional Oncology Center by introducing radiation therapy and a new investigational PET/CT scanner; the Center will soon become a fully equipped facility offering a comprehensive set of services for patients across the Middle East.

‘The benefits of establishing a tumor registry are that we are also contributing to the wider knowledge of the disease in the region by sharing information and data with other healthcare professionals and institutions,’

adds Dr Nidal.

‘We track our patients and monitor the effects of various treatments on tumors, which can vary depending on the different factors involved in each case. Building this database of knowledge helps practitioners learn about the incidence and prevalence of cancer cases in the region and can help guide healthcare professionals to the best treatment options.’

Virgin Launches Stem-Cell Bank In Qatar

March 19, 2009

Courtesy by: middleeastevents.com

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.”

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