The chances of finding stem cell donors from black and minority ethnic (BME) people in the UK are very slim, as only 20 per cent of BME patients successfully find a donor from a stranger.
For the overall population, the chances of finding a donor is about 60 per cent.
However, recent appeals by charities like the Great Ormond Street Hospital have seen a rise in BME registrations onto the donor register by taking a simple swab test, but the numbers are still small.
“To find a close match, you need roughly 100,000 donors from the same ethnic pool. For white patients there are 750,000 donors in this country – we usually find one [match]. For a south Asian patient, we only have 40,000 donors so we are unlikely to find one [match]. If we have a child [patient] of mixed race – white and south asian, the donor pool will be absolutely tiny”, Professor Paul Veys from Great Ormond Street Hospital said
Stem cells can change the lives of people with serious diseases as they have the ability to become virtually any human tissue.
However the cells can only be of benefit if a matching donor is found, which poses a problem for patients from a BME heritage.
Fewer registered donors from these backgrounds mean there is far less hope of finding a match.