Stem cell registry will make cancer treatment cheaper

Posted: December 30, 2014 at 10:43 am

NEW DELHI: India may soon have an official database on stem cell donors and recipients. The health ministry is evaluating a proposal along with All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to create a donor registry as part of the National Health Mission (NHM), a senior official told TOI.

The proposal suggests enrolling all district hospitals in the first phase to seek stem cell details from across the country. "Once a stem cell donor registry is in place, a willing donor can be contacted and one can coordinate easily. Also, this would enhance access to safe blood," the official said.

Stem cells, found in bone marrow, are like building blocks which can grow into any normal cell of the body such as red blood cells to carry oxygen, white blood cells to fight infection, or platelets to stop bleeding.

Apart from the donor registry, the ministry is also looking at creating facilities for human leucocyte antigen (HLA) typing. HLA-typing is a process conducted for matching donors and recipients of stem cell. HLA-typing is necessary to minimize rejection of stem cell transplant, experts say.

Once created, this would be the first government registry in the country. Till now, such registries have been run in the country by a few NGOs such as Bharat Stem Cells.

According to Bharat Stem Cells, there is usually 25% chance of a patient finding a matching donor within the family. The rest depend on unrelated voluntary stem cell donors.

Stem cell therapy has been shown to be effective in various blood disorders and in treatment of cancer. It is widely used in bone marrow transplantation. However, stem cell treatment remains expensive because of limited research as well as unavailability and lack of coordination between donors and recipients. Some private hospitals charge as much as Rs 1 lakh per session for stem cell therapy. On an average, stem cell treatment is estimated to cost around Rs 15-16 lakh.

According to the official, the idea behind including stem cell into NHM is to make it affordable by creating records and providing facilities.

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Stem cell registry will make cancer treatment cheaper

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