40-Years-Old Saudi Woman Donates Stem Cells to Save a Young Woman from Leukemia




A 44-years-old Saudi woman donated hematopoietic stem cells after the tissue of a patient in need of these stem cells matched with her tissues, according to the registry of stem cells donors’ database at King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre in Riyadh in a four-hour procedure.  

The patient, who is suffering from acute leukemia for five months, is in her thirties and did not have a relative matching donor, thus, it was necessary to search the registry of stem cells donors’ database to find a matching donor.

Dr. Feras Al-Fraih, Hematology and Stem Cell Transplant Consultant at KFSH&RC in Riyadh, explained that stem cells are usually given to patients with leukemia, lymphoma and bone marrow failure as a cure for these diseases, indicating that the donation process was done after the necessary physical and clinical tests were conducted to the donor, which proved her suitability for donation. The stem cells were compiled by blood cell separator through the arm and an amount equivalent to 300 ml was taken; this is the latest and most globally used way.

"The way the blood cell separator works is by inserting two venous needles in each arm of the donor so that the blood comes out through the needle into the blood cell separator to be processed and to separate the hematopoietic stem cells and then return the remaining blood components to the donor's body again by the second venous needle" Dr. Al-Fraih mentioned.

He also added that the donor was previously given hypodermic injections for five days before the process of collecting the stem cells from the donor, in order to stimulate bone marrow to increase blood stem cell formation to facilitate the process of collecting stem cells and to reach the required quantity. He also emphasized that stem cell donation is a safe process and the body re-acquires the amount donated within a week.

"KFSH&RC in Riyadh established a stem cell donors registry in 2016 to meet the needs of a segment of patients suffering from serious diseases that could be treated with stem cell transplant, but those patients do not have a relative matching donor, taking into account that this registry resulted in the joining of 23 thousand Saudi citizens during a year, ranging between 18-50 years. He also stressed the need to expand the list of the registry joiners, which increases the probability of finding a matching donor.” Dr. Al-Farih added.

Dr. Al-Fraih appreciated the interaction of all society segments with the regular ongoing awareness campaigns organized by the stem cell donors’ registry of KFSH&RC in public squares in various regions of the Kingdom, praising the efforts of the registry officials. Although there are about 30 million people worldwide registered as stem cell donors in the global stem cell donation registers, the possibility of Saudi patients benefit is very slim due to ethnic variation, which reduces the probability of finding a matching donor in these global registers.

It is worth mentioning that KFSH&RC in Riyadh possesses a great program for bone marrow and stem cells transplant since 1984 and succeeded in conducting more than 5500 transplant surgeries for diseases of high risk to human life, such as leukemia, lymphoma and bone marrow failure, with remarkable results that are similar to those of the best world centers across several types of bone marrow and stem cells transplant, namely autologous transplant, transplant from a relative matching donor, transplant from relative non-matching donor, transplant by stem cells extracted from umbilical cord blood and non-relative matching donor.