In the process of blood stem cell transplant, healthy cells are inserted by removing unhealthy bone marrow cells. This can be successful only if the HLA type of the donor is the same as the HLA type of the patient.
According to the Globocan 2020 report, every year more than 1 lakh people in India suffer from some or the other cancer of the blood like lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma. Cancer simply means the loss of healthy human cells. Similarly, blood cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the blood-forming system grow uncontrollably and overpower healthy cells.
Blood cancers affecting Indians are the three most common. First- Lymphoma is the name of a group of blood cancers that develop in the lymphatic system. Hodgkin lymphoma usually occurs in the blood and bone marrow, while non-Hodgkin lymphoma usually occurs in lymph nodes and lymphatic tissue. The second is leukemia blood cancer, in which the normal cells of the blood change and start growing uncontrollably. And the third is multiple myeloma, which starts in the bone marrow when plasma cells start growing uncontrollably.
Stem cell transplant in blood cancer patients
The lack of awareness among the common people about blood cancer in the country is a big challenge. CEO of DKMS BMST Foundation India Patrick Paul It is said that till a few decades ago this diagnosis was fatal. But today, blood stem cell transplants can save the lives of patients with blood cancer and other blood diseases. In a blood stem cell transplant, healthy cells are inserted after removing the deformed stem cells from the patient.
Removing bad cells and planting healthy cells
In the process of blood stem cell transplant, healthy cells are inserted by removing unhealthy bone marrow cells. Paul explains that the body’s immune system consists of proteins, called human leukocyte antigens (HLA), that differentiate between cells from within and outside the body. A stem cell transplant can be successful only if the HLA type of the donor is the same as the HLA type of the patient.
Finding a donor of the same tissue type is the challenge
It is a matter of regret that many patients are not able to get the benefit of this procedure and the right treatment. Because finding donors of the same tissue type is not an easy task. Among relatives, only 30 percent of the patients get matching and the remaining 70 percent of the patients are dependent on the donor. Paul explains that people of similar environment are more likely to get the perfect match in the donor. However, patients from Indian setting find it more difficult to find a matching donor as there is a shortage of potential donors in the Indian registry.
How does a blood stem cell transplant work?
Any healthy person between the age of 18 to 50 years can register as a potential blood stem cell donor with any stem cell registry in India. The registration process is very easy. For this you have to register through the online portal of Stem Cell Registry, after which you get a DIY Home Swab Kit.
After getting the kit, you have to take a swab sample from the inside of your cheek, fill the given permission letter and return it to the registry. After this, a specialized laboratory assesses your HLA (tissue type) and your details come in the global search for blood stem cell donors. However, it may take weeks, months or years for you to come across as the perfect match to give a second life to a needy patient.
What happens once the perfect match is found?
The registry contacts you when you are marked as matching. If you are found to be medically fit to donate and wish to proceed with the donation process, you are asked to donate blood stem cells through the Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Collection Procedure (PBSC).
The blood stem cells donated by you are delivered to the patient and then those cells are inserted into the patient. These new blood stem cells increase in number and produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets and replace the diseased cells of the patient. Paul points out that there are more than 38 million non-related potential donors registered in stem cell donor centers and registries worldwide, of whom only 0.04 percent are Indians. This situation can be changed by registering more potential stem cell donors from India.
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