Los Angeles, June 19, 2010 – The Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) announced that, for the first time in the history of Armenia and the Caucasus region, it has performed a stem cell harvesting procedure in Yerevan. Thanks to the procedure, during which stem cells were harvested from a healthy donor, a bone marrow transplant was performed in Belgium, saving the life of a patient who suffered from a potentially terminal blood-related disease.
“This is a wonderful breakthrough and an extraordinary milestone, for the ABMDR and Armenia alike,” said Dr. Frieda Jordan, president of the registry’s Board of Directors. “With the successful completion of our first-ever stem cell harvesting procedure, which made possible a life-saving bone marrow transplant in Belgium, the decade-long work of our donors and volunteers has once again been rewarded.”
Dr. Jordan continued: “The procedure is also an outstanding achievement for Armenia, which is already being recognized as an important international center for stem cell harvesting.”
The stem cell harvesting procedure in Yerevan was performed on June 16, at the ABMDR’s Stem Cell Harvesting Center, collecting stem cells from a healthy donor. A resident of Iran who is registered with the ABMDR, the donor traveled to Armenia when he received a request to donate stem cells for a patient in Belgium.
The procedure, which is painless and non-intrusive, was supervised by doctors Andranik Meshetsian and Mihran Nazaretyan of the Stem Cell Harvesting Center. Once the procedure was completed and qualitative and quantitative lab tests verified that the harvesting was conducted in accordance with international standards, the stem cell harvest was entrusted to a specialist courier who had traveled to Yerevan for this purpose. Subsequently the courier took the harvest to Belgium for use in the scheduled bone marrow transplant. The transplantation was performed successfully on June 18, saving the Belgian patient’s life.
“I can’t tell you how gratified we all are by our donor’s enthusiastic response and spirit of volunteerism,” Dr. Avagyan said. “As soon as he received the request, our donor, who lives in Iran, didn’t think twice to rush to Yerevan and donate stem cells. Whenever we witness such acts of selfless dedication, our work becomes all the more worthwhile.”
Commenting on the significance of the stem cell harvesting procedure on June 16, Dr. Avagyan said that from now on stem cell donors in Armenia and neighboring countries will no longer need to travel to Europe or elsewhere for harvesting procedures, as these will be performed in Yerevan, helping considerably reduce the cost of a bone marrow transplant.
The Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevan was established in April 2009, with support from individual and corporate sponsors and grass-roots contributions from throughout the worldwide Armenian community. Major supporters included VivaCell-MTS, which helped provide the center with key medical equipment.
The only one of its kind in the Caucasus region, the Stem Cell Harvesting Center features a state-of-the-art tissue-typing laboratory, and can store and harvest stem cells provided by healthy bone marrow donors. The stem cells subsequently can be utilized in transplants for patients suffering from life-threatening blood-related diseases such as leukemia and other cancers.
As 2010 marks the tenth anniversary of the ABMDR, a series of special events — including a Gala Fundraiser on July 25, a walkathon, a Christmas boutique/luncheon, and a comedy night — has been planned for throughout the year. In addition to recruiting bone marrow donors, these events will seek support for the establishment of a stem cell transplantation center in Armenia and the creation of support groups in Australia, Egypt, France, Latin America, and Russia.
About the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry: Established in 1999, the ABMDR, a nonprofit organization, helps Armenians worldwide survive life-threatening blood-related illnesses by recruiting and matching donors to those requiring bone marrow stem cell transplants. To date, the registry has recruited over 15,000 donors across three continents, identified 1,696 patients, found 1,419 potential matches, and facilitated ten bone marrow transplants.