• The FNQLHSSC and Héma-Québec have joined forces to save lives
Mar 13, 2019

In addition to having their own culture and history, First Nations in Quebec have a unique genetic profile. This can be a challenge when they require a stem cell transplant to fight an illness.

For a successful transplant, the donated cell’s characteristics must be as close a match as possible to the patient’s. There is currently little information about the characteristics of First Nations’ stem cells since there are few in Canadian stem cell registries and none in international registries. This is a significant issue since a diverse registry (representing the population’s composition) would better meet the potential needs of sick people.

In collaboration with the FNQLHSCC and Héma-Québec, communities were selected to take part in a population study with a view to understanding the characteristics of Indigenous stem cells, making it easier to find compatible donors.

Agreements have been ratified with the Huron-Wendat, Mohawk (of Kahnawake) and Innu (of Unamen Shipu) nations, with the goal of getting at least 100 participants per nation. Actions adapted to each community’s reality were taken to recruit study participants during blood drives, at community gatherings, at professional training centres for Indigenous people and by sending letters.

Participation is on a voluntary basis and all collected information remains confidential. Participants are asked to:

1.            Sign a consent form;
2.            Fill out a questionnaire;
3.            Do a mouth swab (kit provided by Héma-Québec).

The organizations are more than halfway to their goal in the targeteted communities and many First Nations candidates also registered to become potential donors on Héma-Québec’s Stem Cell Donor Registry. An achievement made possible thanks to support from the FNQLHSCC and local partners!

The study will move on to other nations to ensure that all of Quebec is fairly represented in the Stem Cell Donor Registry and that First Nations members have a better chance of overcoming illneses requiring a stem cell transplant. If you have any questions or want to take part in the study, please call Nadia Baillargeon, who is in charge of the project at Héma-Québec, at 418-842-6255, ext. 2208.