TRU Nursing students using stem cells to make difference

By Chad Klassen
March 8, 2016 - 5:31pm

KAMLOOPS — It only takes seconds but can save a life. Taking stem cells from one person can help another who's suffering from a disease or condition.

It's as simple as rubbing the cotton swab inside your mouth for about 20 to 30 seconds, trying to get as many healthy cells as possible. 

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"What we're looking for is epithelial cells, so the skin cells that comprise the inside of your mouth, your cheeks basically," says third-year nursing student Logan Geisbrecht.

A bone marrow transplant is the most widely used stem-cell therapy to treat cancers like leukemia and lymphona.

But it doesn't stop there, and a group of six nursing students are hoping they can make a difference, choosing stem cells after their research revealed how live-saving they can be. 

"Stem cells can save a variety of life-threatening illness: leukemia, lymphoma, sickle-cell disease," says Geisbrecht. "It's nice because it's almost the equivalent of becoming an organ donor, but it's while we're living. We have it, so why not give it."

During the event on Tuesday, as well as one at TRU on Wednesday, Canadian Blood Services is looking for people 17 to 35, hoping to increase the database. 

"There are up to a thousand patients waiting any day for a stem cell transplant, so the more people we can get on the registry, the more chances we have for those patients," says Gayle Voyer from Canadian Blood Services.

TRU business student Robin Poirier took a few minutes out of her schedule to donate her stem cells. 

"In a lot of the literature here, it explains that even if it's your family members, it's only a 30% chance that one of your immediate family members is actually going to be able to help save your life," she says. "So by spreading the word and by getting more people out here, you're really increasing the chances."

Another stem cell event is happening on Wednesday, hosted by former TRU baseball player Alex Reid. The event is happening all day at the Tournament Capital Centre in the athletic offices.

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