Who do we need as donors?
Every healthy person between 18 and 50 can be a donor. "Tissue-types" are inherited characteristics, used in matching donors and patients. The likelihood, therefore, of finding a suitable volunteer will be considerably greater within the same ethnic background. Accordingly all racial groups are welcome.
What is the South Africa Bone Marrow Registry?
An organisation that registers potential bone marrow donors and already has 10.6 million participants. It was started in 1991 and has been designated as the Hub centre for this Continent. As such, we are responsible for coordinating the provision of unrelated donors for our patients in association with a world wide data base.
Why do people need bone marrow transplants?
Every year thousands of individuals with blood diseases such as leukemia, marrow failure or aplasia, and inherited metabolic and immune deficiency syndromes reach a stage where only this procedure offers a chance of cure.
Why are unrelated donors needed?
Family members, particularly brothers and sisters are generally most suitable. However, due to the average family size, only about 30% of patients have a compatible sibling.
How do bone marrow transplants save lives?
The patient's diseased marrow is destroyed by combinations of cytotixic drugs and radiation. The graft from the healthy donor is given intravenously. Thereafter the blood forming stem cells travel to cavities in the large bones and, following engraftment, begin producing normal blood.
What is bone marrow?
This is the tissue that could be regarded as the factory for the production of red cells to carry oxygen, white cells to fight infection and platelets to prevent bleeding.
How are donors and patients matched?
In the same way as red cell blood groups exist, so white cells can be categorised into groups known as "tissue-types". Very many possible tissue types exist, so that finding the correct match depends upon having a very large register of volunteers. Although there are over 10 million donors registered worldwide some searches are still not successful.
What does the donor initially do?
Volunteers, if deemed to be suitable, need to have a small blood sample taken and sent to our laboratories for tissue-typing. The results are placed on an international computer registry.
What happens next?
Possible matching donors will be asked to provide further blood samples to help select the donor matches best for a particular patient.
Can I change my mind?
You are completely free to change your mind at any moment, up to the moment you are asked to donate. Most donors are delighted to hear that they have been chosen to donate - after all, that's why they joined the Registry.
How is bone marrow donated?
The stem (marrow) cells can be obtained by collection from the peripheral blood on a machine called a cell separator. This obviates general anesthetic and hip punctures. It is equally efficient and comparable to bone marrow for the recipient, but much less trouble for the donor.
Where would I donate?
The medical procedure for obtaining stem cells is called a harvest. If you are asked to donate you would be required to attend a specialist harvest centre in South Africa.
Is a transplant a definite cure?
Unfortunately the field of bone marrow transplantation is complex and a number of patients still die of complications despite the best medical care. Increasing numbers of successful transplants are being carried out using matched unrelated donors. However, donors can only be assured that they offer the hope of a future to patients whose disease would almost certainly otherwise prove fatal.
Where can I join?
Donors are recruited on behalf of the SABMR by the Sunflower Fund. For more information please call: 0800-12-10-82