Donating bone marrow or cord blood

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Thousands of patients with leukemia and other lethal diseases need a potentially life-saving bone marrow or cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor. Here's how to donate:

Attend a donor drive or complete a consent form through the National Marrow Donor Program. Donors, who must be between 18 and 60 years old and meet certain health guidelines, provide a swab of cheek cells or blood for tissue typing. This information becomes part of a national registry searchable by patients worldwide. Further testing determines a match. Donors who are a match decide whether to proceed. A doctor decides which method, usually stem cell collection, is better:

-- Peripheral blood stem cell donation: The donor receives injections of filgrastim, which may cause flulike symptoms, for five days to increase blood-forming cells. Blood is drawn from the arm using a sterile needle and passes through a machine that extracts blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor.

-- Marrow donation: Under anesthesia, a small amount of bone marrow is extracted from a hip bone using a needle. Soreness for a few days to a few weeks is common, but normal activity may be resumed quickly. Marrow replenishes itself within a few weeks.

Parents expecting a baby can donate umbilical cord blood, which is routinely discarded after birth, to a public cord blood bank. For more information, go to or call 800-627-7692.

-- Sandra G. Boodman

SOURCES: National Marrow Donor Program, Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches

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