Virgin Health Bank starts storing cord blood in Qatar

Two years after setting up shop in Qatar, Virgin Health Bank has finally starting storing cord blood cells in the country.

The cells, which are taken from a newborn’s umbilical cord, can be used to treat leukemia and other blood-related illnesses, and will be stored at the state-of-the-art Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP).

Doctors are just beginning to unlock the potential of stem cells. In the long run, the hope is that they can be used to treat victims of strokes and heart attacks, or those with illnesses like diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Interesting, when I wrote about Virgin Health Bank two years ago, it billed itself as a public-private bank that will store a portion of the child’s cells for the family’s use and release the rest, with parental permission, into the national public bank for use in the wider patient community.

But Virgin no longer makes any mention of requiring an altruistic donation of a sample from each collection to a public resource (though it does give clients in the UK that option).

Still, there does seem to be an implicit promise that matching stem cells could be made available to those in need.

Gulf Times reports:

VHB’s new regional centre of excellence is the first significant step to meet the shortage of Arab stem cells for life-saving treatments in Qatar, (VHB CEO Dr. Rajan Jethwa) explained.

“When thousands of cord blood transplants take place around the world every year, saving lives that would be otherwise lost, the current shortage of stem cells from Arab communities means that the chances of finding a matched cord blood unit for an Arab patient within existing international registries are very low,” he pointed out.

Cord blood banking is expensive everywhere, and Qatar is no exception – storing a baby’s cord blood for 20 years costs almost QR13,000.

Read more about the service here.

And tell us what you think! Would you store your child’s blood?

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