Only 3% of stem cell donors mixed race
The Match4Lara campaign has highlighted the need for a perfect match when it comes to stem cell treatment.
A perfect match is required to avoid the body rejecting donated stem cells or the possibility of the patient having to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of their life.
In the case of 24-year-old Lara Casalotti, finding a genetic match has proven to be hard. Casalotti, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia over Christmas, has an Italian father and a Thai mother, and with only three per cent of all people on the worldwide donors register being of mixed race, it greatly lowers the chances of finding a genetic match.
Casalotti has undergone chemotherapy, but needs a bone marrow transplant by April to have any chance of surviving. Her brother was not a genetic match, so her family have started a campaign to get more people to become registered donors and raise awareness of the lack of ethnic diversity among those already registered.
Actor and presenter Stephen Fry and Harry Potter author JK Rowling have joined the campaign using the #match4lara hashtag on Twitter, and blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan told the BBC that over 3,000 new donors have registered in the UK.
Casalotti told BBC Radio 1 news programme Newsbeat that she hopes that the campaign will diversify the registers so that other people in her situation can benefit, as well as finding her a match.
Banking stem cells ensures a genetic match should they be required for treatment. The only way to harvest stem cells without surgery is from a naturally shed tooth. Stem cells can be harvested from adult teeth that have been removed for orthodontic reasons, but the best stem cells are those taken from baby teeth as these will not have been damaged by age or pollution.