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Blood donation cannot meet Greece's demand

14 November 2015 / 20:11:25  GRReporter
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Greece sits at the bottom of the pile in terms of donating blood, bone marrow and stem cells. Until recently, however, the country was a champion in the storage of stem cells in private tissue banks.

Only 47% of Greek blood demand is met by voluntary donation, while in Europe it is 100%. "Donating blood only in emergency cases to benefit family or friends cannot solve the problem," said representatives of the Hellenic Centre of Haematology at the 26th Greek haematology congress, which began on Friday.

About half of the Greeks can donate blood, but actually much less than 5% do so. Bone marrow donors are fewer than 50,000. Cyprus has more than 110,000.

According to researchers, now Greece has an unknown number of tissue banks and frozen stem cells. It is very unlikely that they are used for transplants on their donors. Storing stem cells in private tissue banks is not recommended by any scientific institution or international organisation. On the contrary, competent research organisations are unanimous that stem cell donation and storage be done by public tissue banks.

Roughly 80 transplants with materials taken from non-family donors are performed in Greece every year.

Since 1993, when science made possible the transplants of stem cells from non-family donors, 50 tissue banks opened in 34 countries around the world storing more than 600,000 stem cells. Internationally, more than 30,000 transplants have been carried out with stem cells from these banks.

Researchers have reported that trade in the sector is also flourishing: more than 150 private tissue banks have been launched so far. Up until 2009, over one million units of stem cells were stored in private banks. Independent US data has shown that very few (less than 100) of them have actually been used.

Transplantation of donated blood cells can literally save the lives of patients suffering from diseases such as leukaemia, aplastic anaemia and thalassemia.

Scientists say it is imperative that Greece strengthens its blood cell donation, as well as the storage of stem cells in state-owned tissue banks. "Blood donation cannot be compulsory, it should not be done commercially, yet this is not philanthropy, it is free choice. It is time that Greeks understood that everybody is a part of the chain when it comes to diseases", says the director of the Hellenic Haematology Centre, Dimitris Karakassis. He added that by donating voluntarily for the sake of someone else you actually donate to yourself.

In May 2010, under the slogan, "Become part of the chain, become a voluntary blood donor", the Greek Haematology Centre began an awareness raising campaign on issues related to volunteering and donation to benefit patients suffering from haematological diseases. The results achieved so far provide grounds for moderate optimism: "We're gradually decreasing our transplant imports from abroad as transplants from Greek donors are starting to rise."

Tags: blood donation blood cells stem cells Center of Hematology tissue banks bone marrow
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