Experts discuss stem cell banking ethics, policies

Experts discuss stem cell banking ethics, policies By Noimot Olayiwola
Staff Reporter
Umbilical cord blood banking and transplantation, issues of ethics and policy as well as regulations governing stem cell banking were some of the high points of discussion during a session on ‘Stem Cell Banking’ at the Qatar International Conference on Stem Cells Science and Policy, underway at the Qatar National Convention Centre.
Sharing the Saudi Arabia experience on umbilical cord blood transplantation during a presentation, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre’s blood bank (transfusion & donor services) director and of the Stem Cell Cord Blood Bank at the department of pathology and laboratory medicine, Dr Hind al-Humaidan, noted that the transplantation of allogeneic (taken from different individuals of the same species) bone marrow has been successfully used in the treatment of high risk or recurrent hematologic malignancies, bone marrow failure syndromes, selected hereditary immunodeficiency states and metabolic disorders.
“Early in the history of bone marrow transplantation, it was clear that access to a suitable donor was a major obstacle severely limiting the use of this potentially curative treatment modality. Although using an HLA (human leukocyte antigen) sibling donor is the best choice for transplantation, not all patients could have access to such a donor. Therefore transplant centres explored the possibility of using volunteer adult unrelated donors as an alternative to HLA–matched siblings,” she noted while mentioning that there was another alternative treatment strategy as a source of hematopoietic stem cell namely umbilical cord blood.
She explained that in Saudi Arabia, 60% of patients who need a transplant will find an HLA-matched sibling donor, leaving 40% of the patients in need of alternative sources.
The figure of donor with HLA-matched sibling elsewhere in the world is 45%, she said.
“The concept of establishing a cord blood bank in Saudi Arabia, under the umbrella of King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, was raised after an increase in use of cord blood for transplantation due to the inability of finding fully or closely HLA-matched related donors. This non-profit public Cord Blood Bank is dedicated to making high quality cord blood units available to all patients in need of related and/or unrelated transplantation in Saudi Arabia and in the neighbouring countries through the development and maintenance of a centre of excellence for the collection, storage, search and distribution of ethnically and racially diverse cord blood units,” she said.
According to al-Humaidan, till date, the Cord Blood inventory consists of 3,725 units of high quality cord blood with a total of 70 cord blood transplants being carried out from the inventory.
Virgin Health Bank (VHB) chief executive officer Dr Rajan Jethwa discussed ways to make a cord blood bank attractive to users and how to ensure sustenance, especially when government funding of such facilities stops.
He described how VHB will become the magnet that will pull all stakeholders in the field of stem cell banking including researchers, technicians together towards achieving the establishment of a stem cell bank in Qatar.
Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Internal Medicine and Institute for Regenative Medicine Social Sciences and Health Policy professor Nancy King highlighted some of the ethical and policy issues governing stem cell banking globally while Field Fisher Waterhouse’s Public and Regulatory Law Group head Sarah Ellson shared some tips on ensuring regulations of biosamples. University of Central Lancashire’s Dr Katrina Aisha Choog spoke on informed consent among Arab Muslim research participants. The session was chaired by Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s executive director Brock Reeve.

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Experts discuss stem cell banking ethics, policies

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