India has 2.8 lakh stem cell donors, but only 11% are from Maharashtra | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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India has 2.8 lakh stem cell donors, but only 11% are from Maharashtra

Doctors say the wide difference in the number of donors is owing to lack of awareness about stem cell donations in the state

mumbai Updated: Nov 12, 2017 17:14 IST
Aayushi Pratap
(ISTOCK)

Maharashtra, the second most populous state in the country, has fewer number of registered stem cell donors as compared to most states in the south, such as Andhra Pradesh, according to data available by Datri, the largest stem cell registry in the country. The registry has a total of 2,80,000 donors registered with them across the country.

Doctors say the wide difference in the number of donors is owing to lack of awareness about stem cell donations in the state.

The number of donors registered in Maharashtra is 30,924 as compared to over 45,000 donors registered in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. (see box)

Residing in the bone marrow, stem cells are ‘special’ cells which have the ability to turn into different types of cells, including blood cells.

However, patients born with blood disorders such as leukaemia and thalassemia have abnormal stem cells, because of which they need to undergo a life-saving procedure called stem cell transfusion.

These stem cells that are used for the procedure can either be extracted from a family member or an unrelated donor, depending on the results of a test called Human Leucocyte Antigen typing.

However, there is only a 25% chance of finding a match within the family. The other option is to look for matches in unrelated registered donors.

“There is a one in ten thousand to one in ten lakh chance of finding a donor in the registry. As the number of donors in registry increases, recipients have higher chance of finding a match. This is why we need more number of registered donors,” said Dr Niranjan Rathod, associate director and head of department, haemato oncology and bone marrow transplantation at Nanavati Hospital, Vile Parle. “The awareness in Maharashtra about stem cell donation is low compared to states in the south,” he added.

Raghu Rajagopal, chief executive officer, Datri, said, “We are now conducting more awareness drives in the western region. In an awareness drive conducted in Pune in July, around 6,000 new donors registered with us,” he said.

Meanwhile, doctors in India said that the present chance of finding a match is 20-30% as compared to 70-80% in the United States (U.S).

“Some studies have suggested that Indians have a diverse gene pool, so if a patients belong a particular genetic background, the probability of finding a match will remain remote as compare to western countries where their gene pool is more defined,” said Samir Shah, consultant haematologist and transplant physician at Jaslok Hospital, Peddar road.

However, Dr Naveen Khattry, secretary Marrow Donor Registry India (MDRI)- another main registry which has 40,000 registered donors for stem cell transplants mainly from Mumbai and Nagpur, said that the awareness is gradually picking up in the state, but there is a long way to go as compared to western countries.

“Say, for example, in a hospital there are around 240 patients who need a stem cell transplant, then only 60 patients will find matches in the family. The remaining 180 will need unrelated donors. So, the number of patients who need unrelated donors is clearly much higher,” he said.