Dubai: Expectant mothers in the UAE are encouraged to donate as well as preserve stem cells that are being used to treat several life-threatening diseases including a wide range of cancers, immune system deficiencies, blood disorders and rare genetic disorders.
A senior official from the Dubai Cord Blood & Research Centre (DCRC), the only centre in the region that collects, processes and stores cord blood, also stressed the need for more awareness activities to help expectant mothers decide on donating or preserving their cord blood.
Since the centre’s establishment in 2006, the centre under the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has collected 3,000 units from the UAE and other countries, of which five were released and dispatched for transplantation abroad.
“The outcome was a success in four thalassaemia cases and one leukaemia treated in Germany, the UK and the US,” said Shaikha Ebrahim Saif Bin Kalban, head of Administration and Medical Laboratory Units at the DCRC, speaking to Gulf News.
She explained that a new mother may either donate her baby’s stem cells or preserve them for the family. “Parents in Dubai are more open to the idea of cord banking that ever before. Given the life-saving benefits, the cost Dh9,000 at the DCRC is a small amount to pay for storing the stem cells for 20 years,” she said.
Dr Fatma Al Hashemi, head of the Education and Development Unit at the DCRC, spoke of the need to increase awareness through educational activities aimed at new mothers, nurses involved in pre-natal care and female students at universities. “The more a mother-to-be knows about stem cells, the more committed she will be to donate or preserve cord blood after her delivery,” said Dr Fatma.
She said the centre currently conducts regular lectures on cord banking at DHA hospitals and Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs). “From next week, we will launch workshops for nurses to stress correct collection methods and benefits of the procedure. In 2014, the plan is in place to open a research centre within the DCRC. It will serve the emirate’s plans when it launches it transplant programme.”
Dr Mahmoud Al Ali, acting director of the Centre told Gulf News that the culture of routine cord blood donation and preservation is catching on in the UAE. “Due to increased awareness, new mothers realise the benefits, foreseeing the use for their family or others. Healthcare providers like the Bone and Joint Centre in Dubai have found significant use for stem cells. In the UAE cord blood has proved beneficial especially for thalassaemia patients.”
The concept of cord banking can be compared to saving money in a bank. “Both can be used when needed. In the case of cord banking, it can save lives,” he added.
Donating cord blood is free, preserving cord blood costs Dh9,000 including registration at the DCRC.