Bringing renewed hope in the treatment of various medical conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean region, the Virgin Health Bank (VHB)-QSTP, will start its operations here in July 2010. The bank which collects, processes and stores cord blood, taken from the umbilical cord of newborns, was launched here in March as a partnership between Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) and the UK-based VHB.
With the bank headquarters opening here, Qatar will be at the forefront of using regenerative medicine.
“We aim to transform lives through the use of cord blood stem cells in the region. This will be by providing information and championing new standards of high quality ethical banking services,” said Andrew Glen, Commercial Director, VHB-QSTP.
The stem cells, taken from the blood in the umbilical cord, can renew themselves through cell division and differentiating into specialised cell types. Today, 85 diseases can be treated using cord blood. Sickle cell anemia and thalassemia can be completely cured using cell therapy. The facility opening here will help spur cell therapy for various disorders including genetic ones.
“The bank will open as a private one, where families can pay to store the cord blood. This is the major step before venturing into public banking which can ensure that the blood stored can be utilised for community needs. Talks are in progress for public banking.”
When public banking starts, VHB-QSTP will play a major role in Qatar’s much coveted national public health programme to create the world’s first comprehensive source of stem cells for the Middle Eastern population and make it easier to source a matched tissue typed stem cell unit when a transplant is needed.
The VHB project has already commenced in Qatar as a pilot programme with over a dozen cord blood samples being cryogenically stored in the UK. “With the cooperation of Ministry of Interior and Qatar Airways, we have been able to study the various issues in transportation of the samples to UK. To get the best result out of the cells, every thing from collecting to temperature and transportation time matters,” said Dr Magnus Nicolson.
However, by 2010, the bank will have a storage and processing unit in Qatar.
The VHB presence here will catalyse the national health programme which calls for a public bank, as people will get to know the benefits.
The bank has been conducting training for health professionals in Qatar on the management, collection and preservation of the cord blood as part of the public health programme.
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