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Posted On: 14 June 2010 07:55 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:10 pm

HMC begins stem-cell banking

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Parents in Qatar can now perserve the cord blood of their babies for stem cell therapy later in life. The Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) yesterday began private cord blood banking services at Women’s Hospital through a partnership with Virgin Health Bank (VHB)-QSTP. The Shariah compliant service has made Women’s Hospital, the first public hospital in the region to offer private cord blood banking. Umbilical cord blood, which is disposed of after child birth, is a rich source of stem cells or the master cells from which all cells and tissues in the human body develop. Currently, there are more than 80 approved treatments that use cord blood stem cell transplants principally for conditions like Leukaemia and blood disorders like Beta Thalassemia Major and Sickle Cell Anaemia. However, it is expected that in the future, stem cells will form the basis of developments in regenerative medicine. Through the much-awaited banking services offered by VHB-QSTP at HMC, every parent can save the baby’s cord blood up to 20 years by paying a fee. This can enable the individual or family the use of stem cell therapy. “Treatment options depend on the transplant programmes available and hence our service is currently limited,” said Dr Nish Patel, Executive Director, Women’s Hospital. “However, there are plans for HMC to develop a full fledged transplant programme. Once that is established, stem cell transplants and therapy would be possible. The decision is still in the incipient stages. However, at present, a state-of-the-art laboratory is being set up for cell therapy for leukemia and other blood diseases,” he told The Peninsula. The cord blood banking programme has been initiated at HMC to provide families the opportunity to purchase high quality cord blood stem cell storage should they wish to do so. It includes a significant emphasis on awareness building and educational initiatives for families to enable them to make an informed choice. Families, who choose to have their babies delivered at the Women’s Hospital, can contract with VHB to bank their newborn’s cord blood for an initial period of 20 years. Patients will receive information and support in Primary Health Centers (PHC) and Women’s Hospital, and have the support of Virgin Health Bank’s trained bilingual counsellors available to them throughout the whole process. Virgin Health Bank has collaborated closely with HMC to establish strict processes and protocols for stem cell collection, as well as running special training initiatives for the Women’s Hospital’s doctors and midwives. “HMC is the principle healthcare provider in Qatar, and Women’s Hospital is recognised as the primary provider of women’s healthcare and is responsible for delivering over 90 percent of more than 15,000 births that take place in the country every year,” said Dr Rajan Jethwa, CEO, VHB. “Also, PHCs are the first places many expecting mothers go for antenatal care. With the help of PHCs, we will be able to start educating families about cord blood banking and empower them to make a truly informed choice.” HMC Managing Director Dr Hanan Al Kuwari said: “Our objective in establishing the partnership is to offer our patients and their families this exciting opportunity and enable them to avail of the facility.” The Pen