Dr. Alexander Mármol, head of the Transplant Department within the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), announced that the center will function as part of the Institute of Hematology and Immunology (IHH), and conduct compatibility studies for all human transplants, predominately of bone marrow and kidneys.
Equipped with the latest technology and highly trained personnel, the Center’s laboratories have begun their work using molecular biological techniques which allow for the determination of compatibility between the tissues of transplant recipients and potential donors.
With the capacity to conduct 40 to 60 tests a week, CICEL’s genetic studies should contribute to lowering the number of transplant rejections and infections, as well as improving the survival rate and quality of life of patients, Dr. Mármol said.
Dr. José M. Ballester, IHH director, reported that the laboratory will also conduct genetic studies to identify serious blood pathologies such as lymphoma, leukemia or immunodeficiency, to clarify diagnoses and treatment.
In addition to its medical contribution, the Center will allow for significant savings, since such tests need not be conducted abroad at a higher cost, he commented.
Dr. Mármol, also the director of MINSAP’s National Kidney Transplant Program, explained that the first tests were conducted with dialysis patients waiting for kidney transplants.
The National Nephrology Institute is responsible for delivering blood samples to the national laboratory, which began its first ‘typings’ – as professionals describe the process – in Havana and will extend the service throughout the rest of the country, to ensure that all those waiting for kidney transplants have a compatibility profile.
Dr. Mármol reported that currently there are 2,845 dialysis patients in the country and that, among these, some 1,200 are good candidates for a transplant and will be offered compatibility tests.
Ongoing dialysis is much more expensive than a transplant, according to studies undertaken in Cuba, where the cost of this procedure averages approximately $20,000 a year, per patient.
The doctor therefore emphasized that a transplant is the best approach, since patients recover quickly and do not continue to depend on a machine, visiting dialysis centers every other day.
Studies in more developed countries indicate that it is four times more economical to provide a kidney transplant than to maintain a patient on dialysis, according to Dr. Mármol.