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12 April 12 2009
By Sumitra Deb Roy
Mumbai, India

The city’s first bone marrow registry, that was set up recently, is intended to serve as a bridge between patients fighting life–threatening blood disorders, and volunteers who are willing to donate their bone marrow. In India, bone marrow transplants are still a rarity, mainly because no registry exists.

Statistics suggest that every year, nearly 40,000 people suffering from blood disorders such as leukaemia, aplastic anaemia, sickle–cell anaemia and such, die in India for want of donors. Only 30 per cent of those suffering from blood disorders have any chance of finding a match within the family, while the rest have to rely on unrelated donors.

“The intention of setting up a bone marrow registry with a national reach was to eliminate these problems that patients encounter,” Dr Sunil Parekh, haematologist at Bombay Hospital, said at a seminar on Saturday. The bone marrow registry is housed in Parel's Tata Memorial Hospital, and has already registered 1,349 donors. India's first marrow donor registry was begun by the All India Institute of Medical Science, in Delhi.

The marrow donor registry at Tata has an advisory board with experts and will have access to global databases as well. “It is connected to registries in Australia, Japan, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Italy, Denmark, the US and UK,” said Dr Ashok Kirpalani of the Indian Society of Organ Transplant, the NGO that worked closely with Tata Hospital to set up the registry. Officials from the registry will go to colleges and corporate houses seeking donors.

According to Kirpalani, in the absence of donor registries in India, patients face two problems, “First it is hard to find a donor–match for a patient in India in western registries due to our genetic differences. Second Indians who are able to find a match, have to go abroad for the transplant costing Rs1 crore to Rs1.5 crore.”

Dr Mammen Chandy of the CMC Hospital, Vellore, said there was a great need for an Indian registry. In the last nine months, the CMC has carried out only nine transplants, and the bone marrow had to be brought in from Germany and the US.

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