His Holiness Karekin II joins the ABMDR as a potential bone marrow donor

Los Angeles, July  23, 2010 – His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, became the latest potential stem cell donor to join the ranks of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR).

The pontiff’s membership in the registry was formalized on July 22, following a simple, non-intrusive medical test that took place at the catholicosal residence in Ejmiatsin, Armenia. The brief standard test, which ABMDR volunteers administer to all potential stem cell donors before they can join the registry, confirmed that His Holiness is in excellent health and hence qualified to donate bone marrow stem cells, should he be identified as a match for a patient needing bone marrow transplantation.

Commenting on his decision to join the ABMDR, His Holiness stated: “This is an important day filled with blessings. I am pleased to note that by becoming a potential donor one can help save someone’s life. To this end, I encourage the citizens of Armenia as well as Armenians throughout the diaspora to actively participate in the work of the registry, with the understanding that it might be one of us who can give the gift of life by donating a little blood.”

The catholicos continued: “With this I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to all those who are supporting the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, and once again encourage each and everyone to be of assistance by registering as potential stem cell donors.”

An ABMDR representative in Yerevan said that His Holiness volunteered to join the registry as a personal gesture of support and, more importantly, to help raise public awareness of the critical need for Armenians worldwide to register with the ABMDR as potential stem cell donors. The same source added that since ethnic Armenians have a unique genetic makeup, often their only chance of surviving a life-threatening blood-related illness is to receive a bone marrow transplant from an Armenian donor.

Last month, for the first time in the history of Armenia and the Caucasus region, the ABMDR 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.

As 2010 marks the tenth anniversary of the ABMDR, a series of special events — including a Gala Fundraiser on July 25 at the Glendale Hilton in Glendale, California — 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 throughout the world.

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.