Historic stem cell transplant performed at IJN

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s first cardiovascular stem cell transplantation surgery was successfully performed at the National Heart Institute here last Tuesday. 

Institute chairman Tan Sri Mohamed Khatib Abdul Hamid said the surgery was a proud achievement for the institute and the country. 

“This research is among the first few clinical trials in the world using stem cell in treating a severe heart disease. 

“We are proud to be involved in this leading edge research on stem cells as this is the first phase of the clinical trial in the world,” he said at a press conference here yesterday. 

RECOVERING: Allagara, with the help of a nurse, showing where doctors operated on his body.

On Sept 16, a collaborative effort between the institute, Kansai Medical University of Osaka and Kuala Lumpur Hospital saw 20 medical experts performing a six-hour operation on 60-year-old Allagara Arumugam, who has been suffering from recurring chest pains since a coronary artery bypass surgery in 1997. 

Allagara, who had been admitted 31 times for chest pains, was declared unsuitable for other operations to rectify the problem. 

He said at the press conference yesterday that he was “very comfortable now compared to before”. 

“It doesn’t hurt to breathe anymore,” said the retired defence ministry storekeeper. 

The operation was led by Datuk Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub from the institute. It involved the harvesting of bone marrow from Arumugam's hipbone, which was then processed before being injected into his heart. 

Dr Mohd Azhari explained that new blood vessels were expected to form within the next two to three weeks. 

“Stem cell therapy offers a great opportunity for these patients to have an effective treatment and better quality of life. 

“It holds enormous potential for heart disease treatment and may one day be an alternative to heart transplants,” he added. 

Two more patients have been lined up to undergo the same surgery in the next few months.  

Stem cells are embryonic cells that have the potential to cure many human diseases as they are akin to blank cells that can develop into almost any of 216 different cells in the human body. 

Found in embryos, foetal tissues, umbilical cords, adults and children, embryonic stem cells can be obtained from unneeded embryos for infertility treatment or those created specifically for research as well as in cloned embryos.  

Blood stem cells in adults and children, acquired from the bone marrow during surgery, continuously replenish the body's red and white blood cells, and platelets. 

Scientists today are making use of stem cells as a means to substitute dead or diseased cells in a number of organs. 

Tissues derived from stem cells are potential treatment, for among others, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, stroke, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and cancer. 

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