Of Stem Cells and Saving Lives: The ‘Save Sachin–Be the Match’ Campaign


Seven-month old Sachin Sijoy was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), a genetic disorder that appears in 1 in 100,000 births. Also known as ‘bubble-boy disease’, it results in an immune system so weak that the affected person can only survive in a sterile environment.  The only way to remedy the disorder is stem cell transplantation, with a 1 in 10,000 chance of finding a matching donor.  Matters are made worse by the fact that there are very few registered stem cell donors in India, where the chances of finding a match for a patient of Indian origin are highest.  Sachin is currently awaiting a donor at the Apollo Health Clinic in Chennai.

PosterThe task of saving Sachin was taken up by various NGO’s, headed by Datri, a non-profit organization that works towards building up a stem cell donors’ registry in India.  Drives to find donors are now being conducted in major cities across India, with the help of Campus Palliative Care branches and NSS organs of local colleges.

The drive is being brought to IITM this Thursday, 27 March, through a collaborative effort by Campus Palliative Care (CPC) IITM, the Extramural Lectures (EML) Series and Datri.  Apart from finding the right donor for Sachin, it also aims to build up Datri’s registry of Indian stem cell donors, and to spread awareness about stem cell treatment for cancer and other serious diseases. The campaign will consist of an awareness session and a Stem Cell Donor Registration Drive.

The awareness session on Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC) treatment will be conducted by Dr.Revathi Raj, consultant doctor in Department of Paediatric Haematology, Blood and Marrow transplantation, Apollo Specialty Hospitals, Chennai. It will be held from 5 to 5.30 pm in the CLT. The stem cell profiling drive will continue from 4pm to 9pm, where volunteers will take cheek swabs of applicants in a short and painless procedure.  The data thus obtained will be added to the Datri Blood Stem Cell Donors Registry, and will remain there until the donor turns 55 years of age.  This data can then be used to find matches for medical patients who require blood transplants.  The actual procedure of transplanting stem cells has few risks, is free of cost for the donor, and carries Datri’s assurance of being conducted in a place, date and time that is convenient to the donor.  It also ensures confidentiality, and the choice to withdraw one’s consent. The drive is open to all healthy individuals between 18 and 55 years of age.

The organizers hope to have maximum turnout for the event; the drive may help save Sachin’s life, and the lives of many others like him.

To know more about being a stem cell donor, visit the FAQ page of Datri.

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