Refleksi : Wah, Qatar akan berkecimpun dalam penyelidikan stem-cell, bagaimana
dengan NKRI? Harus tunggu keputusan MUI?
Stem cell bank at science and technology park soon
Deputy News Editor
The infinite possibilities of stem cell therapies are to be realised soon for
the people of Qatar as Virgin Health Bank establishes a partnership with Qatar
Science & Technology Park (QSTP).
With the support of local institutes, Virgin Health Bank expects to start
storing umbilical cord blood stem cell samples from Qatar within the next few
months, it was announced yesterday."The Ministry of Health welcomes the
initiative as it increases the range of medical options available to Qatar's
population," Minister HE Dr Sheikha Ghalia bint Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani said.
In Washington, US President Barack Obama signs today an executive order
removing curbs, placed by his predecessor, on federal funding for embryonic
stem cell research and reversing a policy that critics say has hampered the
fight into finding treatments for grave diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's
Virgin Health Bank, launched in the UK in 2007, will relocate its international
headquarters to QSTP where it is to build a state-of-the-art processing and
cryogenic storage (below -180ºC in the vapour phase of liquid nitrogen)
Parents in Qatar will be able to have their new born babies' stem cells
collected, processed and cryogenically stored once the proposed facility is
The stem cells, obtained from the blood remaining in the umbilical cord after
birth, are already being used in treatments for 85 different medical
Stem cells are also a major focus of medical research around the world and this
is expected to add to the number of therapies available.
Stem cells, which are very early cells, can develop into almost all other types
of cell and tissue. They are found throughout the body, but especially in bone
marrow, in the blood that is being circulated and in the umbilical cord.
The stem cells found in cord blood are particularly versatile and because they
are brand new are also most vital. They can help the body to heal and
regenerate itself after injury or illness.
Stem cells divide themselves many times to make new stem cells. They can also
transform into specific cells needed by the body to heal itself.
Stem cells for transplantation can come from oneself (autologous transplant)
or, more commonly from a donor (allogeneic transplant).
"Stem cells have already proven useful for fighting leukaemia, and are one of
the most promising areas for future medical breakthroughs," HE Dr Sheikha
Ghalia pointed out.
Virgin Health Bank and Qatar's medical authorities are exploring the use of the
umbilical cord-blood stem cell bank as part of a national public-health
Such a programme would create the world's first comprehensive source of stem
cells for the indigenous Middle Eastern population and would for example, make
it easier for clinicians to source a matched tissue typed stem cell unit when a
transplant is needed.
Umbilical cord-blood stem cell transplants are increasingly being used in
preference to bone marrow for conditions such as leukaemia and thalassemia.
Evidence shows that umbilical cord blood stem-cell transplants result in fewer
complications, reduced occurrences of graft-versus-host syndrome, and
importantly, they are more readily available.
Because Virgin Health Bank's process collects stem cells from ordinary
umbilical cords, ethical considerations related to other sources of stem cells
Its model has been deemed compliant with Shariah law by a Qatar-based Islamic
Hamad Medical Corporation managing director Dr Hanan al-Kuwari welcomed Virgin
Health Bank to Qatar by observing that it takes a major step towards increasing
the range and quality of public-health services available in the country.
Virgin Health Bank chief executive officer David Macauley expressed delight in
the opportunity to use skills and technology of his establishment to help
realise the current and future benefits of stem cell therapies for the people
"It is a pleasure to be working in partnership with QSTP, the Qatar Foundation
and Qatar's medical authorities to accomplish this goal," he stated.
QSTP executive chairman Dr Tidu Maini described Virgin Health Bank's decision
to move its global headquarters to Qatar as significant, and a testament to
Qatar's ability to accelerate the world's best medical science.
"The legacy of our partnership with Virgin will serve the health of Qatar's
citizens for years to come," he added.
Virgin Health Bank is a joint venture between Sir Richard Branson's Virgin
Group and Excalibur (formerly Merlin Biosciences), the private equity house of
Professor Sir Christopher Evans, one of Europe's leading biotechnology