Stem cell donation that can save lives gains popularity in Kerala

stem cell donation
Aby Sam John, Kerala head of the Dhathri Blood Stem Cell Donor Registry speaks at the camp.

Aby Sam John, Kerala head of the Dhathri Blood Stem Cell Donor Registry, announced at an event organized in Kasaragod recently that he was the first stem cell donor from the state. A loud round of applause followed the announcement. As many as 558 people, including doctors and students, gave consent for stem cell donation at the camp.

The camp was organized to identify blood stem cell donors in the district. Stem cells can save people suffering from life-threatening diseases like leukemia.

Aby had completed his MTech in Biotechnology and was working with a multinational firm in Chennai when he donated stem cells to Mayur Bargage, a software engineer belonging to Pune, in March 2014. Aby is the first person belonging to Kerala and the 25th stem cell donor in India. Realizing the magnitude of his gesture, Aby quit his MNC job and joined the non-governmental organization Dhathri as a volunteer.

The campaign held in Kasaragod was inaugurated by Dr B S Rao. The programme started by collecting a document regarding the consent as well as sample from doctors CH Janardhana Naik, Narayana Pradeep and Maya Mallya. Kasaragod People’s Forum president V Gopinathan presided over the function. M K Radhakrishnan, M Padmakshan and KV Kumaran spoke.

What is stem cell donation?

Blood stem cell donation is the last resort for over a hundred serious diseases including blood cancer. Genetic matching is necessary for stem cell transplantation. Finding a donor having genetic similarity from family or siblings has less than 25% chance. Meanwhile, locating a donor from outside the relatives’ circle could be one in 20 lakhs.

How stem cell donation is done

The genetic matching is done with the help of HLA typing test. An interval of 8-10 weeks is necessary to obtain the report in this regard. A registry of donors is prepared based on these reports.

Blood samples are collected to confirm the HLA typing test. After the registry is ready, the donor will be informed regarding blood stem cell donation. GCSF injection is administered five days continuously before the stem cell donation. On the fifth day, the stem cells are separated from blood.


People aged 18-50 can register as donors. A swab from the buccal mucosa inside cheeks is taken for HLA typing test. After HLA typing, the details will be stored in the donor registry. In India, around 5.5 lakh people have already registered. Among them, over 90,000 belong to Kerala. As many as 580 people have donated stem cells.

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