Blood Stem Cells are blood-forming cells that are present in the cavity of your bones. Blood stem cells can be donated in two ways. One is the Peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation – collecting the stem cells from the circulating blood of the donor. The other is by harvesting the blood-forming stem cells from the bone marrow located in the hip bones.
Before getting into details, here are some facts about bone marrow donation.
❖ Blood Stem cell/bone marrow transplant is most often the last hope of a cure for different types of blood cancer and disorders.
❖ Blood cancers such as Leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma can be treated with a blood stem cell transplant.
❖ Blood stem cell donation is almost as simple as blood donation. However, it is difficult to find an HLA matched donor for a patient in need. Human leukocyte antigens (HLA) are proteins or markers found on most cells in your body. Your immune system uses these markers to recognize which cells belong in your body and which do not.
❖ Most registered donors do not get a chance to donate as it is very rare to be identified as a match to a patient with the same HLA Typing. The probability of finding a donor is 1 in 10000 to 1 in a million.
The Bone Marrow Donation Process
→ Peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection is a simple process done on an out-patient basis. If your HLA is found to match with a patient, you would be contacted immediately. You will be educated again about the pre-examination and donation procedures. Before starting the PBSC donation procedure, you will receive an injection called G-CSF (Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor) for five days to ensure Blood Stem Cells are released into the bloodstream from the marrow, which is inside the cavities of our bones. G-CSF is a type of growth factor and growth factors are proteins made in the body. The collection of Blood Stem Cells will be scheduled on the fifth day. During the collection, the blood drawn from one arm through sterile tubing is run through a machine (called Aphaeresis unit) that separates the stem cells from the blood. The remaining blood goes back into your body through the other arm. This is a 4-5 hour process, and during this time, you can relax with activities like watching TV or listening to your favourite music.
There are no proven long term side effects of Blood Stem Cell Donation. However, from the day you start your injections you may experience flu-like symptoms of headache, bone or muscle aches for a couple of days before the collection. The doctor may prescribe pain-killers to alleviate the aches if required. This will disappear completely post-donation. After donating, you are recommended not to do any physically strenuous activity for at least 1 day.
→ Bone marrow donation- Based on the patient’s disorder and the transplant doctor’s treatment plan donors may be requested to donate bone marrow. Bone Marrow donation is a procedure that takes place in a hospital under general anaesthesia. You check-in the evening before the donation and the following morning, doctors will collect liquid marrow (blood which included the stem cells) from the hip bone (pelvis). This takes around one hour. Usually, you will be required to stay in overnight to allow the effects of the anaesthesia to wear off. The next day you can go home. Most donors will feel some soreness in the lower back for a few days but usually, they resume their routine in a few days. You should be back to do your normal physical activities within a week and your own marrow is completely replenished within 4-6 weeks.
A donor will have the final choice of the donation method.
How often can you donate?
Both bone marrow and stem cells regenerate. So, it is possible for an individual to donate multiple times. It is recommended that ideally, one donor can donate up to 3 times.
Q: Is it safe to donate bone marrow?
A: There is no serious risk involved in donating bone marrow. In fact, it is the first and highly used method for over 40 years until PBSC was developed. Anaesthesia is the only risk, which is very low because all donors must be healthy and are thoroughly checked before donation.
Q: How many times should I be donating my bone marrow?
Q: How painful is bone marrow donation?
Q: How long does it take to recuperate after the donation?
Donating blood stem cells is a safe procedure that can save a life and give back a loved one to a family. The probability of finding the perfect match is low. The likelihood can be increased only if all eligible individuals register as donors. Take the first step to save a life. Visit www.datri.org to know more about how to register and become a donor.