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Young leukaemia patient searches for stem cell donor


A 13 year old from Winchester is desperately searching for a stem cell donor to cure her leukaemia. Zara Shaikh is struggling more than most with this search due to the fact her mother is English and her father is from Iraq. This means that her chance of finding a match is much more difficult.

In order for a patient, such as Zara, to avoid taking anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their life, the stem cells should be a perfect match. The preference is for stem cells to have been extracted from baby teeth, in order to avoid deterioration due to age or pollutants. However, the only painless and non-invasive way to harvest stem cells is from naturally shed teeth.

Zara was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome when she was 11, which then manifested into leukaemia. The condition went into remission late last year but has now sadly returned.

Zara’s mother, Kerensa Shaikh, explains that a bone marrow transplant is essential: “We have been searching both nationally and internationally (for a match) but have yet to find anyone. That is why I am urging as many people as possible to sign up in case they are a match, if not for Zara then for someone else who is also in need.”

Winchester MP Steve Brine has joined the appeal for a donor: “Registering online as a potential blood stem cell donor could lead to you saving Zara’s life or the life of someone else in need.”

The organisation Delete Blood Cancer UK has been running an ongoing campaign to encourage people from a wide variety of backgrounds to register. At the moment, there are over 2,000 people in the UK alone who are waiting for a stem cell donation, and 37,000 people worldwide.