MSCR is a database/registry of people who are willing to donate their stem cells to a patient in need. The registry was established on December, 2000. It is a joint project of the Ministry of Health, the National Cancer Council (MAKNA) and the Institute for Medical Research. Currently, there are 18000 registered volunteers/potential donors. This is just 30% of our total target which is 40 000 volunteers/potential donors. We strongly encourage the public to register. In Malaysia, stem cell transplant is commonly carried out for patients suffering from leukaemia or thalassaemia. Other blood diseases which may require bone marrow transplants include lymphomas, immunodeficiencies and aplastic anaemia. Statistic shows that more than 3000 children are diagnosed with leukaemia yearly and there have been more than 500 stem cell transplants carried out in Malaysia to date.
Patients who require stem cell transplants sometimes do not have a family member with a suitable stem cell. In this case, they are compelled to search for an unrelated compatible donor. The chances of finding an unrelated compatible donor are very slim and are largely dependent on the size of the registry. In short, the larger the registry the higher the chances of finding a suitable donor. Most countries have their own respective registries. In fact, it is estimated that more than 7 million people worldwide are registered donors. However, it is easier to find a compatible donor within an ethnic group and that is why it is important that we have our own Malaysian registry.
Our objectives are to identify, collect data from volunteers and perform a search for potential donors for those in need of a stem cell transplant. We are also in the process of computerizing our data so that it will be much easier to search for potential donors.
Compatibility is determined by identifying certain proteins on the human white blood cell surface called human leukocyte antigens (HLA). A small amount of blood is required for identifying the HLA. A match occurs when the 6 HLA antigens found on the patient’s white blood cell match with the 6 HLA antigens on the potential donor’s white blood cells.
Bone marrow is a spongy tissue in the bones that produce the body’s stem cells. During a transplant, a small amount of the donor’s bone marrow are harvested and is used to replace the patient’s damaged marrow. Bone marrow will replenish itself within 4 to 6 weeks after a donation.
MMDR carries out various activities, focusing on increasing the number of potential donors. Such activities are:
- Organising campaigns
- Typing donors (HLA) and maintaining the database
- Handling search requests from hospitals within and outside the country
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