Diverse people of Sabah encouraged to pledge as stem cell donors

KOTA KINABALU: The people of Sabah, whose genetics are unique due to ethnic diversity and mixed marriages in the state, are encouraged to pledge as stem cell donors. Sabah Health director Dr Christina Rundi said stem cell transplants could cure blood disorders including Thalassaemia which the state has the most cases in the country, severe aplastic anaemia and leukaemia. “It becomes difficult to find matched stem cells to be donated to patients here due to the limited availability of the Sabahan gene pool in the registry. “Besides family members, donations can be made among non-related people, provided the human leukocyte antigens of stem cells are matched between donor and recipient,” she said during the state’s inaugural Stem Cell Transplant Awareness Forum at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) here this morning. To date, the Malaysian Stem Cell Registry only registered 169 people of Sabah out of 26,559. The awareness programme, which was organised by the Sabah Women and Children’s hospital and UMS, also conducted registrations for those who pledged after the forum. The hospital’s Radiotherapy and Nuclear Centre here is one of the seven transplant centres in the country which will continue to support the stem cell donors drive in the state. Meanwhile, Paediatric Haemato-oncologist Dr Asohan Thevarajah said a common misconception was that donation of stem cells could only be harvested from bone marrow. This has hindered people from pledging to become donors. “Other ways include peripheral blood which is similar as donating blood, or from umbilical cord blood,” he said. – News Straits Times


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