THE Chinese University of Hong Kong's bone marrow transplant unit has carried out the first successful paediatric blood stem cell transplants in Southeast Asia. This was revealed by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Arthur Li. Three child leukaemia patients have been treated with this method. Ming-ming, seven, was one of the first patients to be treated by the new method some three months ago. 'I feel much better and am recovering quite fast, thanks to my elder brother who is my donor,' she said. More than 30 children in the territory with leukaemia are on the waiting list. The average waiting time is 30 to 40 weeks. According to Mr Li, a bone marrow transplant is an established treatment for patients with a variety of cancers and blood diseases. Collection of bone marrow is, however, a painful procedure requiring multiple punctures over the pelvic bone of the donor. The new type of transplant, allogeneic blood stem cell transplant, is the transplantation of blood stem cells from a donor into a patient. Mr Li said the advantages of the new system included the fact that the collection of blood stem cells from the donor was simpler, relatively painless, and did not require general anaesthetic. 'The donor does not need to go to hospital and as a great number of stem cells can be harvested and transplanted, the recipient recovers faster and with fewer complications.' Dr Li Chi-kong, of the faculty's Paediatrics Department, said the donor was first given injections of blood cell growth-enhancer to stimulate stem cell production by the bone marrow. 'This ensures that a greater number of stem cells will spill over into the peripheral blood. Similar to ordinary blood donation, the donor's blood is continuously drawn into a computerised cell-separator which separates and retrieves the stem cells.' Dr Li said that after about two hours, about 50 cubic centimetres of stem cell-rich blood was collected - adequate for one transplant. The patient, after eradication of cancer cells by chemotherapy and total body irradiation, was given blood in the same way as ordinary transfusion.