Since the inauguration of MAHAK Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA) Typing Bank in 2017 as the first for non-governmental centers in Iran, more than 9000 samples have been registered, 545 of which have matched with the stem cells of patients admitted to different care centers throughout the country.
Among the treatments for children with cancer as well as the patients with blood disorders, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) has been developed in the recent years. Along with the opportunities this method creates for the patients, it is very difficult to find a matching sample since in the best conditions only 25% of patients can receive stem cells from their parents or close relatives. Accordingly, the HLA Typing Banks have to receive samples from Banks abroad while facing with its high costs and the risk of not finding matching samples in the next steps. In order to eliminate these problems, in 2017, MAHAK launched the first nongovernmental HLA Typing Bank in Iran which is currently the third international HLA Typing Bank in the country.
“HSCT (progenitor blood cells that can change into mature ones) is one of the methods for treating various diseases, including cancer. In this method, the donors' tissue compatibility genes, called HLAs, are identified and the related data is then stored in the HLA Typing Bank. Once a request is received from a patient or a care center, the specialists examine the compatibility of the registered genes in MAHAK's Bank. If the genes match, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation will take place in stages with less invasive methods than the past.” said Dr. Mansoureh Haghighi, head of MAHAK's HLA Typing Bank, about the activities of the Bank since 2017.
She added: “To date, over 9,000 samples have been registered in MAHAK's HLA Typing Bank and more than 545 donated stem cell samples have matched with stem cells of patients who have referred to this center. The achieved results have placed MAHAK’s Bank as the third largest center in the country as well as one of the most active Banks which is connected to the national hematopoietic stem cell transplantation network.”
Haghighi pointed out the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the activities of MAHAK's HLA Typing bank and stated: “With the outbreak of COVID-19, the operation of this center did not stop but due to social restrictions and semi lockdowns, the rate of sample registration decreased. By implementing well-thought-out conciliatory arrangements, and adaptations made to preserve the health and safety of the donors, the operation restrictions were lifted. Due to high risk of virus transmission through saliva, blood sampling has been replaced. In addition, since the start of the pandemic, MAHAK has provided on-site services to donors upon their request; accordingly, they do not have to be present at MAHAK hospital. In this case, we will go to their location of choice to collect a blood sample while strictly observing the health and hygiene protocols.” The head of MAHAK HLA Typing Bank mentioned that those donors whose stem cells have matched a patient's need to refer to the Blood Transfusion Center in their own city for the primary tests before transplantation.
At the end, she expressed her appreciation to all entities and individuals who have been involved in setting up and operating MAHAK HLA Typing Bank and stated: “Hematopoietic stem cell donors have demonstrated their companionship with cancer-stricken children since the launch of MAHAK HLA Typing Bank to fulfill their social responsibility. We hope that with the continuation of such support, there will be no patients waiting to receive transplantation as a result of the availability of matching samples.”