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HMC Staff Begins Stem Cell Training

Bringing in experts from United Kingdom, Virgin Health Bank (VHB) launched a comprehensive cord blood training initiative for Hamad Medical Corporation () staff, recently. The innovative partnership which also involves establishing protocols, remodelling structure and educating the families about benefits of cord blood banking, could be one of the first of its kind in the region

“VHB works with HMC, providing the needed training for clinicians, nurses and midwives,” said Dr Rajan Jethwa, Chief Executive Officer of VHB. “The health bank’s operational model comprising investment in a comprehensive training programme and close collaboration with HMC produces high quality units. We will establish processes and protocols to ensure that high quality stem cells are gathered. The initiative will also integrate the entire processes, including education and collection, into HMC’s patients system, in order to achieve much higher quality outcomes for the patients. The system is very innovative and could be the first in the Gulf region.”

HMC’s training programme consists of theoretical and practical sessions. The theoretical part involves providing staff with a background on the cord blood banking programme, such as the particular type of stem cells collected by VHB, the use of these cells in treatment, and how they can be collected. Professor Marc Turner, a UK-based professor of cellular therapy, is in charge of delivering this part of the programme. During the launch of the programme, Prof Turner lectured on different kinds of stem cells, and compared the success rate of cord blood transplants with bone marrow transplants. He also spoke on the challenges and the future of cord blood transplantation.

The practical part which involves teaching the midwives cord-blood collection is done by Terie Duffy from King’s College Hospital, UK. The section will give practical training into high quality cord blood collection, explaining the process of collecting and the storage of cord blood. Duffy highlighted the advantages of cord blood stem cells, among which are the lower incidence and severity of graft-versus-host-diseases (GVHD) and viral contamination after transplants, and the significantly shorter time delay to transplant if a cord blood bank is established, than when sourcing an unrelated adult.

Stem cells are very early cells that can develop into almost all other types of cell and tissue and used as part of a treatment plan for over 80 diseases. Cord blood stem cells are better, than those found in bone marrow, because they offer higher matching success. It is believed that stem cells will form the foundation of a number of new medical treatments in the future, particularly in the field of regenerative medicine.

VHB’s aim is to create a group of specialists who can then pass on the knowledge within HMC. The programme was launched as part of an agreement giving HMC patients access to VHB’s high quality, Shariah compliant cord blood banking services.

Cord blood banking services will be launched at Women’s Hospital by the end of January, after the staff training and an educational programme for families. The programme will make information materials and counseling available for families particularly mothers who come in for obstetric care.

Nish Patel, Executive Director of Women’s Hospital, stressed the importance of creating awareness on the benefits of cord blood banking in order to engage the public and increase participation in the programme. “There is a growing public interest in Qatar about cord blood banking, and HMC physicians and clinical staff have received many inquiries in this regard. The educational programme will enable families to make an informed choice to store their child’s cord blood stem cells. Families should be able to decide whether or not they want to do this based on accurate and honest information,” Patel said.

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