In A Medical Miracle, Shanghai Driver Donates His Stem Cells To A 7-Year-Old Boy In The UK

He agreed to the donation without any hesitation.

Cover image via BBC

A driver from Shanghai, China is donating his stem cells to a 7-year-old boy in the UK, in what is being seen as a medical miracle

A match between someone living inside China and another living outside China's borders is particularly rare, explains Dr Zhang Yi from the Shanghai division of the Chinese Red Cross, the organisation managing the donation.

"There are fewer people of Chinese origin in European and American countries, so most matches are within China," says Dr Zhang. "We have found only 320 matches using the Shanghai database, out of 13,700 potential donors."

His name is Jiang Yongfeng. He works as a driver for the Shanghai government. Jiang registered for a stem cell drive through his workplace, not imagining that it would serve too much purpose.

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But soon, he was told that his stem cells had matched, to a little boy in UK. Jiang agreed to the donation without any hesitation.

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"I was very surprised. I was so excited to get a match so soon. Fate was knocking on my door," he says. "When I learned the boy was only born in 2007, I was even more confident I made the right decision."

The donation experience was relatively painless for Jiang

Drawing of stem cells being removed from a patient or donor.

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Some are still required to donate stem cells by extracting bone marrow, a more complex procedure that uses a needle to withdraw cells in the marrow directly from a donor's pelvic bone. However, Mr Jiang was able to use a different method that extracts cells using a lengthy blood transfusion. He flew to Beijing a few days before the procedure to receive injections into his blood that would "activate" the stem cells.

He was then hooked up to a transfusion machine for three hours, while the healthy stem cells were extracted from his blood system. It's unlikely that Mr Jiang will experience any negative health effects from the procedure.

While Jiang is the 11th donor of stem cells from Shanghai to donate for a foreign patient, he is the first for a British citizen

Those needing stem cell transplants to treat cancer or other immune diseases must find a donor with near identical genes. In reality, that means the matched pair must have the same ethnic background so the immune cells of the donor and recipient work in tandem.

That small percentage makes the long-distance match between Jiang Yongfeng and the little boy something akin to a medical miracle.

The little boy receiving Jiang's donation is of Chinese heritage

The boy who will get the donation is from a Chinese family. Luckily, Mr Jiang gave a saliva sample so that he could sign up for the stem cell registry. Very few Chinese are in the list of donors.

Even though the Chinese constitute 20% of the world's population, just 4% on the global stem cell registry are of that origin, explains the OtherHalf Chinese Stem Cell Initiative.

Does Jiang mind that he doesn't even know the little boy's name?

He shrugged and said: "No. I just want the procedure to be done as soon as possible so they can send my cells back to the UK and help the little kid recover as soon as possible," reports BBC.

"I hope he can be brave and strong and he can live a good life."

Watch him narrate his experience here:

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