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A match made in India

Daniel Weisdorf, M.D., and Kumar Belani, M.D., lead a thriving blood and marrow transplant program partnership with Manipal Hospital in India. (Photo: Jim Bovin)

Anesthesiologist and Bangalore, India, native Kumar Belani, M.D., has become a matchmaker, cultivating relationships between scientists at the University of Minnesota and in India.

Partnering with University hematologist-oncologist Daniel Weisdorf, M.D., Belani helped to initiate a flourishing research and clinical care partnership between the University’s world-renowned blood and marrow transplantation (BMT) program, which Weisdorf directs, and Manipal Hospital in Bangalore. When the project began in 2006, it focused on educational and training opportunities but has since evolved to also include scientific collaborations aimed at improving tissue matching for BMT patients of Indian descent.

The collaboration started when Belani arranged for a group of University physicians to visit Manipal Hospital.

“It’s one of the flagship hospitals in India,” he says. “They had one weakness—they didn’t do bone marrow transplants.”

Following that visit, physicians and nurses from Manipal Hospital came to the University to observe its acclaimed BMT practice firsthand. These exchanges, along with regular teleconferences with Weisdorf, helped Manipal Hospital develop its own transplant protocols. Today the hospital has completed more than 75 transplants using the University’s program as a model.

Through working with his Indian colleagues, Weisdorf discovered that there are limited data about HLA haplotype tissue, which is central to finding the right tissue-type match for BMTs, for people of South Asian descent. The lack of information makes it difficult to find a non-family marrow donor match.

So today Weisdorf is studying tissue matching with 12 medical centers in India and the U.S. National Bone Marrow Donor Program in hopes of using the research findings to develop a model for a BMT donor registry in India.

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