Mainland, Taiwan marrow links set
But what it saves is more important than money: it saves lives.
The Zhonghua Marrow Bank, also known as the haematopoietic stem cell donor data bank in the mainland, met its Taiwan counterpart for the first time in Beijing Tuesday.
In their mission to improve bone marrow transplant access and outcomes, the meeting brought together experts and unique resources here and from across the Straits with the hope of generating more bone marrow donor drives to find new potential donors.
Beginning in 2001, the Beijing-based marrow bank centre along with its 27 provincial branches began registering bone marrow tissue donors around the country. It has registered 130,000 people nationwide and matched about 1,300 donors with recipients suffering from leukemia, anemia and other blood marrow-related diseases.
The Tzu Chi Taiwan Marrow Donor Registry, the third largest of its kind in the world, has 240,000 records stored and has completed more than 500 successful marrow matches. And 230-some of its cases have saved lives of Chinese in the mainland since 1997.
The match rate for same-type marrow between receivers and donor is one in 10,000 for families and one in 100,000 among non-relatives, according to medical experts.
Luckily a lot of leukemia sufferers on the mainland have found matches among Taiwaneses as a result of the similar genes and ethnicities, said Dr Li Zhengdao, reputed as the "parent of blood serum" in Taiwan.
However, due to the unnecessary barriers, the matched type in the mainland for Taiwan patients has not yet been delivered to the place where it is badly needed.
"Compared with the database in Japan, which has a membership of 220,000 and other countries in the world, we are far behind and there is still much to do," said Sun Aiming, deputy director of the China Red Cross Society.
Statistics show that in all bone marrow registers worldwide the majority of potential donors are from the Caucasian population. The United States has 4.6 million members while Europe has 3.7 million.
But Lu Daopei, a Chinese bone marrow expert, is confident of the establishment of one of the biggest marrow data bank in the world due to increasing scientific awareness among the public and the development of science and technology.
Dr. Machteld Oudshoorn, chief operating officer of World Marrow Donor Association was very impressed by the efforts made by the Chinese life bank up to now and hopes that China will join the international association.
Working in the field of marrow transplantation, she said learning it is very difficult to match types should motivate donors. A successful case occurred in 1997 when marrow from a 54-year old Taiwanese woman was transplanted into a 17-year-old boy on the mainland.