Not storing your cord blood? Why not donate it?

Success rate of transplant is higher when cord blood is from the same ethnic group. (File)

Those who do not plan to store cord blood of their children after birth are encouraged to look into the option of donation, which is free of charge and could save lives.

Donation of cord blood stem cells was the topic of the weekly Twitter Clinic of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), which aimed to raise awareness about an opportunity not many people are familiar with.

Cord blood stem cells can be donated, and with the help of these cells more than 80 diseases can be cured, said Fatma Al Hashimi, head of administration and education at the Dubai Cord Blood and Research Centre (DCRC).

There are many Arab families in need of cord blood and the Centre is sometimes unable to find a match with the same ethnic diversity, she continued to explain.

“When cord blood belongs to the same ethnicity there are higher chances of the tissue matching, this means the chances of the body rejecting the transplant is significantly lower. Thus the success rate of transplant is higher when the cord blood is from the same ethnic group.”

Because the stem cells can help in curing certain genetic disorders, cord blood banking can be done privately against a charge. In this case, the stem cells are stored for the potential use within the family.

“When a family has a certain disease such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, blood disorders etc., we highly recommend the mother preserves the stem cells of all her babies because the chances of her child/children developing any of these diseases is higher and when there are more units of stem cells available, the chances of an exact match and success are higher,” said Mayasah Al Khairullah, senior laboratory technologist and administration unit supervisor at the DCRC.

“Mothers who have multiple pregnancies but do not have any family history of such diseases are ideal candidates for public banking of cord blood. After they store the cord blood for their family, for the subsequent pregnancies, it is recommended that they donate the stem cells for the public registry.”

“Sometimes we see cases where after these women have saved their cord blood for their personal use at least two to three times, they do not want to spend money to store stem cells for their subsequent pregnancies and since many of them are unaware of the concept of public banking, these stem cells are wasted.  Our appeal to women is to ensure stem cells are not wasted as they can be used to save lives.

“We strongly encourage families to donate cord blood stem cells so that we have a UAE public registry to help people in need. Stem cells are the future of medicine and public banking is a trend that is catching on globally due to the several diseases stem cells can cure. Preserving the stem cell is essential and the cells can be stored for 30 years.”

The centre has 4800 units collected, of which nine units were used for eight patients, said Al Hashemi. “One of the patients, aged 4, had thalassemia and when her mother was pregnant with identical twins, she saved both units that were used for saving the elder sister’s life. Today she is free of thalassemia and lives a normal life.”

Those interested to contact the Centre can call on 04-2194010/11

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