New Delhi: Medical biotechnology holds much promise for five-year-old Subash, the only son of a couple in Chennai, who is suffering from a potentially fatal form of leukemia.
The need of the hour for Subash is a stem cell therapy, a procedure that involves a bone marrow transplant. But the bone marrow of a patient can be replaced only when the donor's bone marrow is a maximum match with that of the patient.
Though controversial, the stem cell treatment is revolutionary. The costs unfortunately are prohibitive.
"Generally it is the sibling's bone marrow, which can be used. But in this case, the patient doesn't have any. In such cases, we go for an unrelated stem cell transplant, which means we need to search for a similar profile from the general population," Dr Sameer Bakshi, an oncologist at AIIMS, says.
And that's exactly what Subash needs to go through. Although many hospitals across India are equipped to do this surgery, what's missing is an HLA Registry.
"HLA matching is a test that every donor and patient has to undergo to determine whether the bone marrows match. We don't have an HLA registry. In other countries, the citizens are registered so that the doctors just have to pick and choose the nearest possible match," Dr Bakshi points out.
Health experts believe if Subhash could have managed to get a match for his bone marrow in India, the cost for the same surgery at a hospital like AIIMS would have cost him only about Rs 5-7 lakhs while at other private hospitals, the cost could be as much as Rs 10 to 15 lakhs, which is still less than the Rs 1.40 crore which Subhash's family has to shell out for the transplant now.