Bone Marrow

Marrow is a substance found inside the bones. It resembles blood and contains blood stem cells; which produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets important for fighting infection, carrying oxygen and helping to control bleeding. Blood stem cells, the cells that transplant patients need to make healthy new marrow, usually live in bone marrow, but are also released naturally, in small numbers, into the circulating blood.

Why donate?

Every year, thousands of adults and children need bone marrow transplants — which may be their only chance for survival. Although some patients with leukemia or other cancers have a genetically matched family member who can donate, about 70% do not. These patients' lives depend on finding an unrelated individual with a compatible tissue type, often within their own ethnic group, who is willing to donate marrow for them.

As of early 2009, the Be The Match Registry? has facilitated over 35,000 unrelated bone marrow transplants and the national Registry has over seven million volunteer donors. Many patients, especially people of color, cannot find a compatible donor among those on the Registry. Patients and donors must have matching tissue types, and these matches are most often found between people of the same racial and ethnic background. A large, ethnically diverse group of prospective donors will give more patients a chance for survival.

Tissue Typing Made Easier!

Those interested in joining the Be The Match Registry? must have their HLA tissue type determined. Previously, a blood sample was collected from the potential donor, but now, in order to make joining even easier, the Central California Blood Center uses the "buccal swab" collection method. It allows the donor to swab the interior of their mouth to collect enough cells to be HLA tissue typed.

Donor Eligibility

Donors joining the Be The Match Registry? must be between 18-44 years old and in good health, and must meet the Donor Eligibility Guidelines

Steps to Donating Marrow

  • If you match the tissue type of a patient seeking a donor, additional testing will confirm the results.
  • The marrow collection process usually does not require an overnight stay in the hospital. The procedure itself is painless, because it is performed under anesthesia. But, for an average of two weeks following the procedure, most donors experience sore hips and some must restrict their activities. Even with some soreness, most donors report that donating marrow is a very positive experience and that they would be willing to donate again.
  • The donated marrow is transfused to the patient, whose diseased cells have been destroyed by intensive chemotherapy. In time, the donated marrow engrafts and begins producing healthy blood cells.

Q: How can I go about scheduling a bone marrow drive?

A: Call the Central California Blood Center at (559) 389-LIFE (5433).