There's a growing need for Iranian stem cell donors: one non-profit explains how you can help
Students at Western University held a stem cell drive on Friday, hoping to find Iranian donors.
“Iranian Donor Save Lives Campaign is run by the Stem Cell Club, a non-profit donor recruitment organization that aims to increase the stem cell registry with more ethnically diverse individuals,” said Farnaz Farahbakhsh, the lead for the campaign.
Their goal is to increase the chances of Iranian Canadians finding a match if they have a blood disease, since they are underrepresented on the global stem cell registry.
“We make up 1 percent of the global population but we’re only listed as less than 0.2 percent on the global stem cell registry,” said Farahbakhsh. “So you can kind of gauge and see the disparity Iranian patients face.”
You’re more likely to get a match from someone with a similar ethnic background, according to volunteers. But that doesn’t mean you can rely on a family member to be a match.
“Strangers can often be the donor you need for a stem cell transplantation,” Farahbaksh said.
“Stem cells are kind of the most basic cells in your body and they turn into different cells,” explained Lauren Sano, president of Western’s Stem Cell Club.
Sano told CTV News that her father was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia.
“He didn't have any matches in the registry. This is because Japanese patients and many diverse patients are underrepresented in the registry,” she said.
To see if she could help, she was swabbed, and turned out to be a half-match.
“I donated my stem cells via peripheral blood donation which takes a bit longer. It [was] about 6 hours for me and it was painless,” said Sano.
The perfect candidates are typically healthy and between the ages of 18-35.
Volunteers hoped to get 200 people registered as donors at Western by end-of-day Friday.
“We focus on blood cells that turn into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, and so there are many patients with blood disorders and blood diseases that need stem cell transplantations to survive,” added Sano.
Ariana Heidari, president of the Persian society at the university, encourages people to participate in the process, which she said takes about 5 minutes.
“The more people contribute to this drive, the more chances people have at saving lives,” Heidari said.
“All you do is swab the four quadrants of your cheeks and we mail it over to Canadian Blood Services. It’s very fast and that way you're getting added on the registry in hopes that one day you do get a match with someone in need,” added Heidari.
The DNA collected from cheek swabs will be logged at the Canadian Blood Services until the donor turns 60-years-old.
With over 50 volunteers, they’re partnering with 15 organizations and student associations to host stem cell drives across Canada.
Members of the organization are hoping to get more people registered throughout their campaign, which runs until March 31.
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