DUBAI // Stem cells from donated umbilical cords have been used to cure six people of blood diseases, health authorities say.
Experts are now calling for more parents to donate their newborn children’s cord blood to help save those with terminal diseases.
Five transplants were carried out by the Dubai Cord Blood and Research Centre, or DCRC, on Emiratis with thalassaemia, one for Fanconi anaemia in a Jordanian patient and one for leukaemia in an Indian patient.
“Only one case was unsuccessful due to improper follow-up by the patient,” said Fatma Al Hashimi, head of the education and development unit at the centre, the only stem-cell storage facility run by the Government.
Cord-blood stem cells can treat up to 80 diseases, including some blood cancers such as leukaemia, bone-marrow failure and thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder.
About half of the Emirati population carries the gene for thalassaemia, which is recessive.
“Many Arab families are in need of cord blood and the centre is sometimes unable to find a match with the same ethnic diversity,” Ms Al Hashimi said.
“The DCRC encourages families to donate cord-blood stem cells so that we have a strong UAE public registry to help people in need. Stem cells are the future of medicine.”
Seven hundred units of cord blood were collected in 2012, more than double the amount collected in 2011.
But a survey of pregnant Emirati women on what stops them from donating found about 90 per cent were unaware that they could.
“More awareness campaigns need to be held, especially in schools,” Ms Al Hashimi said.