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Science & Health | Global Arab Network
Oman to establish Stem Cell Bank & Transplantation Unit
Global Arab Network - - Mohamed Tamer
The Omani Royal Hospital is in the final phase of establishing a Stem Cell Transplantation Unit, which will be up and running by September 2010. Its Stem Cell Bank will be ready by 2009-end. Currently, building alteration is under way at the National Oncology Centre for accommodating the Stem Cell Transplantation Unit. In the past, stem cell transplantation was used to be called bone marrow transplantation. This was stated by Dr Ali bin Mohammed bin Moosa, Minister of Health in comments to the Observer.

Dr Moosa said the Stem Cell Transplantation Unit is composed of two parts, namely the Stem Cell Bank and Stem cell transplantation. The Department of Hematology at the Royal hospital has selected the place where the stem cell bank is to be established. Physical modifications are under process to adjust the space to fulfill the international requirement for stem cell banking and these changes are almost complete by now. The new stem cell bank will be located on the hospital’s second floor and will be part of the department of laboratory medicine at the hospital. The cost of the space modification was around RO 30,000.

The equipment needed to establish a “state-of-the-art” stem cell bank has been selected and is awaiting installation. The final commissioning of equipment is planned for next month with a cost of around RO 170,000, which was generously funded by Oman LNG Company. Two of the Royal Hospital staff will be trained at the Royal Free Hospital in London. Supported by the Ministry of Health, they will be travelling to London next month. Another two people will be trained in Australia in stem cell collection; processing and related procedures. Royal Hospital is looking forward to sending them to Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney for training so that by the middle of 2010, it will have trained staff.

In addition, one of the Haematology scientists is completing a Masters Degree in Stem cell technology in Newcastle, UK. Dr. Moosa said, stem cells, like any other blood products, have to go through a comprehensive and thorough testing regime prior to storage. Facilities for testing are already available at the Royal Hospital laboratory and at the Central Blood Bank. More sophisticated testing, such as stem cell viability and counts using the advanced techniques of flow cytometry is already available at the Royal Hospital and currently operated by a highly trained and well-qualified scientist.

Stem cells are fast becoming a contemporary medical practice and promising to be an important and powerful tool in curing or controlling many disorders in the future. In the past, it was used to be called bone marrow transplantation. Recently and with development of new techniques, it is possible to collect stem cells from peripheral blood in a similar way to blood donations making stem cell collection very safe and more convenient to donors. There are different sources of stem cells: Stem cells collected from the patients themselves called “Autologous” Stem cells transplantation”; from the patient sibling’s donor called “allogenic stem cell transplantation”; and from unrelated donor “Matched unrelated stem cell transplantation”.

Stem cells is also collected from cord blood and there are many banks worldwide, which collect the “cord stem cells” and use these as therapeutic options for those who have no sibling donor and no matched unrelated donor. The National Oncology Centre is planning to start using Autologous stem cell collected from the same patient for rescue therapy in the treatment of many Haematological and solid tumours such as leukemia’s, lymphoma’s, Myeloma, Germ cell tumours’ and also in non-malignant conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

Currently there are Haematologists, both adult and paediatric, undergoing training in Canada and Saudi Arabia and they are likely to join the Royal Hospital Stem Cell transplant unit within the next two years. By that time, it will be possible to expand the unit to perform allogenic stem cell transplantation for many malignant and benign conditions. The new building works at the National Oncology Centre are designed to include a state of the art isolation rooms with all the facilities and equipment required to start the stem cell transplantation.

The stem cell bank will able to process and provide services to other specialties including neurosurgery, orthopedics, cardiology, plastic and reconstructive surgery units with the required stem cells for treatment of their patients depending on the currently ongoing clinical trails and future developments.

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