Nigeria records first Stem Cell Transplant

By Correspondent Chinyere Ogbonna – A team of medical experts at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, Edo State in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria have recorded the first successful stem cell transplant in the West African sub-region.

The team of docters led by a haematology, Dr. Nosakhare Bazuaye performed the successful surgery on a seven year old indigent sickle cell patient who suffered a stroke and almost had a second experience. His fourteen year old brother made the donation and it was cross matched by an expert brought in from Brasel, Switzerland since the facility was not available in the country. Briefing newsmen in Benin, the Chief Medical Director of the institution, Professor Michael Ibadin said the bone marrow transplant began three years ago when UBTH assembled a team of eighteen medical experts sent to Switzerland in an effort to bring succour to Nigerians suffering from Sickle Cell anaemia and other diseases. He noted that this is happening in Africa for the first time outside Egypt and South Africa.

Professor Ibadin explained that with the breakthrough, the two weeks procedure which would have cost about forty million naira outside the country can now be achieved for as low as two million naira locally. According to him stem means primitive cell; while the transplantation means one taking from one person and transplanting to another.

The UBTH boss further explained that to get stem cell, the medical experts have to go to the bone marrow. He said the process requires extensive technical knowledge & its delicate procedure which requires breaking down the defences of the donor through drugs and need to get what he called the primitive cell from somebody who is compatible with patient to transfer to another. According to experts, the beneficiaries include Sicklers and after the surgery, the patient can go from SS to AA. He noted that Cancer patient can also benefit from such transplant.

The surgery which lasted two weeks will take another one month to determine whether the grafting will jell but the optimistic Medical Director did not see anything that would undermine the process.