This Wednesday, the student group Stem Cells 4 Life will campaign across three campuses to raise awareness of stem cell transplants and encourage students to register in the Stem Cell Database.
Stem cell transplants involve the transfer of bone marrow stem cells, benefiting patients with blood cancers, such as lymphoma or myeloma, and those with immunological and metabolic disorders. It is usually an alternative and last resort treatment to cancer therapies such as radio, chemo, and gene therapy.
“Of Caucasian patients in need of stem cell transplants, there is an 83 per cent chance of finding a matching donor; whereas Chinese patients—or really any ethnic minority—they only have at most 1.4 per cent chance of finding a matching donor,” said Darryl Houang, president of Stem Cells 4 Life.
Houang said that potential donors could be discouraged by inaccurate information, and sought to distinguish stem cell transplants from controversial embryonic stem cell research. “Stem cell research is done only on embryonic cells. Our stem cell registry is for only bone marrow transplants,” he said.
The Canadian Blood Services reports that 233 Canadians received transplants in 2007. Most of the transplants—77 per cent—were imported from other countries. The selection process for matching stem cells is far more rigorous than finding a match for blood types. At most, 30 per cent of patients are able to receive transplants from their own family members. To better match donors and recipients, the group OneMatch works in association with the CBS to create a database.
Donors are asked to send in four cheek swabs. If a patient is a match, the donor is contacted and the cells are either drawn through blood or from the hip. Stem cells are regenerated within two to six weeks.
Stem Cells 4 Life will be at the Medical Sciences building at St. George, the Meeting Place at UTSC, and UTM’s student centre on Feb. 10. For more information or to register, head to onematch.ca.