Your newborn can save lives

Your newborn can save lives

Dubai Cord Blood and Research Centre urges mothers who get pregnant again to donate cord blood of their newborns.

By Asma Ali Zain/deputy Chief Reporter

Published: Fri 13 Feb 2015, 1:10 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:41 PM

The flow viability test being conducted at the Cord Blood and Research Centre in Latifa Hospital, Dubai. — KT file photo

Dubai — The Dubai Cord Blood and Research Centre has advocated the importance of public donation of cord blood to help form a substantial registry of stem cells for the UAE.

The Dubai Cord Blood and Research Centre (DCBRC) was established in 2006 and is the only government entity that offers public and private banking of cord blood.

Fatma Al Hashimi, head of administration and education at the DCBRC, said during last week’s Twitter clinic held by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA): “Since inception of this centre, we have seen a steady increase in the awareness levels among the public about cord blood banking and this has directly attributed to an increase in the number of people who save their cord blood at our cord blood bank.

“However, we need to raise awareness that cord blood stem cells can be donated. Presently, more than 80 diseases can be cured with the help of stem cells and these include leukaemia, treatment of genetic disorders such as thalassemia etc.”

Many Arab families are in need of cord blood and the centre is sometimes unable to find a match with the same ethnic diversity. “When the 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.”

Mayasah Al Khairullah, senior laboratory technologist and administration unit supervisor at the centre, said: “There is awareness about private banking of cord blood but people are not aware of the importance of public donation of cord blood. When a family has a certain disease such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, blood disorders etc., we highly recommend that 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.

“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 is 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.”

Al Hashemi said the centre has 4,800 units collected, of which nine units were used for eight patients, one patient used two units, and both these units were that of her identical twin siblings. “This patient, aged four years, 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.”

Al Hashemi added that since the establishment of the education department at the DCBRC in 2012, there has been a steady increase in the number of collections. She highlighted that the centre provides a tour for pregnant women and families interested in preserving stem cells for their families or for the purpose of donation.

In addition to stem cell banking, the centre also conducts molecular tissue compatibility matching tests as well as several other molecular markers for certain diseases.

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