Bone marrow transplantation is a treatment option for somepeople suffering from life-threatening blood or immune system diseases. It can also be a treatment option for a number of hereditary hematological disorders like thalassemia.

Bone marrow is the soſt, spongy tissue in the bones where blood cells are produced. It contains stem cells, which develop into the mature cells of our blood: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.  During bone marrow transplantation the damaged bone marrow of a patient is replaced with the healthy bone marrow stem cells from a volunteer donor. Aſter transplantation the new stem cells take over blood cell production.

For a bone marrow transplantation to take place, a matchingdonor must be found first. Ηistocompatibility, or otherwise the tissue similarity of two individuals, is determined by the histocompatibility antigens called the Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA). These antigens are inherited and serve as the molecular identity of our immune system.  Due to thefact that they are highly variable, finding two individuals with the same tissue type is particularly difficult.

The search for a suitable donor for a patient begins among the patient’s siblings, who have 25% chance of being compatible. There are, however, many patients that cannot find a donor among their close family members, therefore a search should be undertaken  among unrelated volunteer donors who are able and willing to donate  bone marrow to any patient  in need.

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 In the event that you are found compatible with a patient, you will be asked for further laboratory testing by providing a fresh blood sample. If you are then selected to provide a bone marrow graſt, you will undergo a thorough medical examination in order to ensure that you are in good health and be provided with more detailed information about the collection process that will follow. You will be asked to decide whether you would like to proceedwith the donation and sign a consent form. Bone marrow is collected in two ways:

  1. Bone marrow (BM) donation takes place in a surgery room at the hospital. Bone marrow is collected from the pelvic hip bone using a needle and syringe, under general anaesthetic. During this procedure which does not involve surgery, about one litre of bone marrow mixed with blood is collected. This represents about 5% of the donor’s total bone marrow, a quantity which is naturally replaced within a few weeks. The donor can usually go home on the same day and resume normal activities aſter two-three days.
  2.  Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) donation; normally a very small amount of stem cells from the bone marrow circulate in the bloodstream. To increase this number, the donor receives a growth factor called GCS-F by injection for four days prior to collection. Then the stem cells are collected by a procedure called leaukapheresis. A needle is inserted into a vein in the donors arm (similar to blood donation) and blood passes through a cell separator machine which separates and removes the stem cells. The rest of the blood is then returned to the donor via a needle in the donors other arm. This procedure does not require general anaesthetic and takes about three to four hours. Aſter the collection the donor can go home but may be asked to undergo another collection the following day if the number of stem cells is insufficient. The stem cells are restored to their normal levels soon aſter the collection.

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