Kolkata: With only one in two million Indians finding a genetically matched donor, the country needs a database of willing blood stem cell donors to help the cause, a senior haematologist said.
“Surprisingly it’s not difficult to get blood donors in our country, but we do not have enough donors for blood stem cells,” haematologist and director of Tata Medical Centre in Kolkata Dr Mammen Chandy said.
“A large number of Indian patients with blood cancer and bone marrow failure who have failed standard treatments, can be cured with a haematopoietic stem cell transplant if only they had matched donors. For other patients, if a donor is found to be genetically matched from the registry, a transplant can be done and it can be life-saving.
“So, India needs to increase the number of donors on our registries,” Dr Chandy said.
Blood stem cells, derived from peripheral blood of the donor, have the capacity to replace the recipient’s abnormal stem cells with healthy ones correcting the problem at the root-level.
A blood stem cell transplant can be done to treat many fatal blood disorders such as Leukaemia, Thalassemia and Aplastic Anaemia.
With Kerala having over 19,000 donors followed by Tamil Nadu (over 16,000) and Karnataka (over 10,000), West Bengal has 2,369 blood stem cell donors, which is a small number compared to its population, the haematologist said.
“We need to create awareness on blood stem cell donation. We need to make people understand about the concept and break the myths related to the issue,” Dr Chandy said.
“Ethnicity is an important factor in case of blood stem cell transplants. It plays a vital role,” the haematologist said, adding, a donor could donate blood stem cell till he/she was 60 after a gap of every one year.
“Peripheral blood stem cell donation is a relatively straight forward procedure that takes about three to four hours. These stem cells are then infused through the veins of the recipient and thus the transplant is carried out,” he said.
Meanwhile, leading blood stem cell donors registry ‘DATRI’, which has been conducting awareness campaigns throughout the country, has decided to campaign in the city to attract more donors.
“We conduct regular donor drives across the country to increase awareness on blood stem cell donation. In Kolkata we have fewer registrations compared to other cities. We are aiming to educate people on the procedure and break the myths associated with the same,” DATRI co-founder Raghu Rajagopal said.
The country’s first blood stem cell donor Ajit Kumar Das from Odisha’s Bhubaneswar, who saved the life of a 11-year-old boy from Kerala in 2011, would be present at the awareness drive.
Three donors from West Bengal — Avijit Dutta, Manoj Saraf and 21-year-old Puneet Gupta would also be present, he said.