World Health Day: DATRI successfully facilitates over 150 blood stem cell donations

One of India’s largest blood stem cell donors’ registry, DATRI has successfully completed facilitating huge number of unrelated blood stem cell donations, thereby raising hopes for many hapless patients

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New Delhi: Aged 37, Mr Premangshu Choudhury became the 150th donor for DATRI’s stem cell registry. He is also the potential match for a patient suffering from Multiple Myeloma, form of a deadly blood disease.

Delhi based Mr Choudhury, who is a journalist, had registered with DATRI earlier hoping to be a match for his friend’s four year old son, but unfortunately wasn’t a match for the child. However, when Choudhury received a call recently from DATRI for being found as a potential match for a patient in need of a blood stem cell transplant, he didn’t hesitate to say yes. Choudhury says he saw it as an opportunity to serve the society by saving someone’s life.

Confirmatory tests established that Choudhury was the best match and he went ahead with donating his blood stem cells. Explaining the procedure of blood stem cell donation, Choudhury says, “The procedure isn’t as painful as many fear. It is simple and does not have any side effects. The professionalism that DATRI showcased during the process, from providing all necessary information, managing clearance of required documents, to providing complete comfort for the donor, is commendable.” Premangshu Choudhury’s family and friends are proud of his deed and encouraged him throughout the process.

The initiative has the potential to transform the lives of patients suffering from blood cancers and other fatal blood disorders.

(From left) Ms Meenu, Dr Rasika Setia and Dr Dharma Choudhury with the donor at BLK Hospital, Delhi.
(From left) Ms Meenu, Dr Rasika Setia and Dr Dharma Choudhury with the donor at BLK Hospital, Delhi.
For many blood cancer patients suffering from various forms of Leukaemia (ALL, AML, CML), Sickle Cell Anaemia, Lymphoma, Thalassemia, etc. a blood stem cell transplant is their only chance of survival. The transplant can replace the diseased blood stem cells with healthy ones from the donor and hopefully cure the ailment.

A simple cheek swab, a one-page application and a consent form is all it takes to register as a potential lifesaver. The cheek cell sample is sent to the laboratory to identify and record the HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) type in the registry. The HLA type (genetic information) is used to identify the right donor for a patient in need. Once on the registry, potential donors stay on until they are 60 years old. A donor will be called to donate only if found to be a match for a patient.

Mr Raghu Rajagopal, Co-founder and CEO of DATRI Blood Stem Cell Donors Registry, said, “Launched in 2009, we facilitated our first blood stem cell donation in April 2011 and have come a long way to achieve this milestone of 150 donations as of March 2016. There are close to 1000 patients waiting to find themselves a perfect donor match and in line with our vision, we are trying our best to encourage voluntary registrations, so every patient finds their genetically matched, healthy and willing donor. Being a blood stem cell donor is a step towards creating a healthier world”. The chances become better if and when more volunteers sign up to become a potential donor. DATRI is involved in conducting active campaigns and donor drives across the country to enable more and more people to join the registry.

With a probability of only 1 in ten thousand to 1 in two million Indians finding a genetically matched donor, and with increasing number of patients being diagnosed with serious blood disorders every day, there aren’t enough registered blood stem cell donors who can be identified to treat. “In a country where the awareness level on the issue is very low, it is rather a difficult task to achieve milestone donations as DATRI has. We need more people to come forward and register as life-saving potential donors to brighten the hope for many awaiting a blood stem cell transplant.”, says Dr Dharma Choudary, Senior Consultant and Director, Bone Marrow Transplant Department, BLK Hospital.

So far, the not-for-profit registry has more than 1,22,150 voluntary unrelated adult blood stem cell donors across various ethnic backgrounds in India.

Choudhury, after donating his blood stem cells, is urging others to join the registry. He said, “It is very rare that we get an opportunity to save a life. I recommend that everyone voluntarily registers to become a donor as we never know, somebody might need us in the future.”