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Hope rekindles for sickle cell patients as pre-natal DNA lab opens

By Sola Ogundipe
HOPE has been rekindled for enhanced management of sickle cell disorders in Nigeria with the official commissioning of a state-of-the DNA laboratory for pre-natal DNA analysis at the National Sickle Cell Center, Idi-Araba, Lagos.

The laboratory, put in place by the National Sickle Cell Foundation in collaboration with the MTN Foundation, which funded the initiative, is expected serve persons from within Nigeria and other countries in the West African sub-region.

From left: Commodore Christopher Abu, Deputy Director Medical Services, representing the Director, Medical Services, Nigerian Navy with Prof. Olu Akinyanju, Chairman, Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria (2nd left), Mr. Denis Okoro, Director, MTN Foundation and Ms. Nonny Nduka-Eze, Executive Secretary, MTNF during the commissioning of the Sickle Cell DNA laboratory donated to the Sickle Cell Centre, Idi-Araba by the MTN Foundation last week in Lagos.
From left: Commodore Christopher Abu, Deputy Director Medical Services, representing the Director, Medical Services, Nigerian Navy with Prof. Olu Akinyanju, Chairman, Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria (2nd left), Mr. Denis Okoro, Director, MTN Foundation and Ms. Nonny Nduka-Eze, Executive Secretary, MTNF during the commissioning of the Sickle Cell DNA laboratory donated to the Sickle Cell Centre, Idi-Araba by the MTN Foundation last week in Lagos.
Prenatal diagnosis is considered to be the only solution to prevent sickle cell disease all over the world and the procedure has been simplified by obstetric and laboratory techniques, and can be carried out with safety, early enough to allow elective termination of pregnancy.

At the commissioning of the laboratory, which coincided with the closing ceremony of the 10th Genetic Counseling Training Course on sickle cell disorder from which 29 counselors graduated, Chairman of the Sickle Cell Foundation Prof. Olu Akinyanju said the new laboratory would encourage more research and prevent babies dying of sickle cell as a genetic condition.

He said it would ensure accurate detection of known and unknown haemoglobin variant for pre-natal analysis and also facilitate the training of scientists from Africa. In addition, it would help create more awareness and ensure early intervention and management of the disorder, thereby reducing the high prevalence rate in Africa.

Lamenting that over 80 percent of children with sickle cell anaemia are born in Africa, he pointed out that Nigeria, by virtue of its large population, is recording the highest number of births of affected children.

Akinyanju urged Nigerians to endeavour to screen newborn babies before the third month of life so as to detect at the early stage, those with sickle cell disorder just as Chairman MTN Foundation, Mr Hamzat Ahmadu, in his address, explained that the intervention of the Foundation was to assist in improving the quality of lives of Nigerians, especially those with sickle cell disorder.

He also said MTN was also supporting 8,000 sickle cell patients to access drugs in clinics across Nigeria. MTN Nigeria, he noted set up the Foundation to carry out CSR activities. “This is one of our flagship initiatives at great cost to emphasise the fact that MTN is a company that has a soft spot for the masses. The Foundation works in economic empowerment, health and education.

Already, MTN Nigeria is building 12 dailysis centers across the nation to curtail the trend wherby Nigerians go to India for treatment of kidney ailments and is partnering with public hospitals to install these machines so that the average person can have access to dialysis services at affordable cost.

The application of DNA analysis in perinatal diagnosis helps to give accurate indication to expectant mothers about what to expect from their pregnaies. It helps couples prepare for expected outcomes. The MTN Foundation gave kudos to the management of the Sickle Cdell Foundation for the partnership that has positively impacted on the health of people with sickle cell disorder in Nigeria. The laboratory was established by the Sickle Cell Foundation of Nigeria and funded by the MTN Foundation.


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