Sources of Cells
Patients and Donors
HLA Matching & Complications
Cost & Demographics
On this page:
Who gets a transplant?
Who is a donor?
Who gets a transplant?
The most frequent indications for allogeneic and autologous hematopoietic transplantation are the treatment of malignancies.
Diseases Treated with Hematopoietic Transplantation:
The majority of hematopoietic transplants are done after treatment of hematologic malignancies, specifically leukemia and lymphoma. Depending on the dosage given to a patient, chemotherapy drugs and irradiation will produce an antitumor response.
Acute myelogenous leukemia
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Chronic lymphocytic leuykemia
Solid tumors: breast, testicular, ovarian, and small cell lung cancer
Pediatric solid tumors: neuroblastoma, melanoma, Ewing sarcoma, medulloblastoma, renal cell cancer
Aplastic anemia and related bone marrow failure states
Hemoglobinopathies: sickle cell anemia
Congenital disorders of hematopoiesis
Congenital immune deficiencies
Inborn errors of metabolism
For autologous transplants only:
Who is a donor?
The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) is a federally funded non-profit that searches for donors. The NMDP has an international registry that keeps track of volunteers who are willing to donate bone marrow, peripheral blood and umbilical cord blood on their website.
To join the NMDP registry, one joins online. The NMDP will send the potential donor a kit to collect a swab of cheek cells used in tissue typing. Volunteers are asked to pay a $52 fee to cover the costs to run tissue-typing tests. Alternatively, a potential donor can join at a local center or recruitment group.
NMDP's list of transplant centers can be found here.
The a mount of available donors has been increasing throughout the years:
But donors of certain ethnicities are still in high demand because of rare HLA typing:
- Becoming a Donor for a specific patient (family member or friend):
If a person wishes to become a donor for a specific person (family member or friend), an individual can be tested through the NMDP and request a copy of the results. If a person wishes to get tested only for a specific person, the potential donor must have a private blood test. In order to request a private blood test, one must contact a Transplant Center or the patient’s transplant physician for guidance.
- Health Requirements for Becoming a Donor:
- AGE: A donor must be between 18 and 60 years of age. Age requirements are placed to protect the safety of the donor and to obtain the best outcome for the patient.
- AIDS/HIV: If a person has been diagnosed with HIV (AIDS), he or she cannot become a donor. Additionally, any persons at risk for HIV or AIDS most likely will not be allowed to register to become a donor.
- ASTHMA, ARTHRITIS, ALLERGIES, BLOOD PRESSURE, COLD/FLU, DEPRESSION: Any person wishing to join the registry may do so, even if he/she has asthma, arthritis or allergies. However, if the potential donor is in a severe state as determined by doctors for any of the listed conditions, then he or she may not be allowed to join the registry.
- AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES: Any autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and chronic fatigue syndrome will prevent a person from becoming a potential donor. However, people with Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease may be allowed to become a donor if his or her condition has been properly treated.
- CANCER: Even if a person has had pre-cancerous cells, he or she will be able to register to become a potential donor. If a person has had healed cervical cancer, breast cancer or bladder cancer, he or she may donate. However, if a person has had any other form of cancer, such as melanoma, he or she cannot become a donor.
- DIABETES: A person with diabetes must undergo an evaluation of his or her current medical status. If the diabetes is well controlled by medications, the potential donor may register.
- EPILEPSY: A person with epilepsy may become a donor if he or she has not had a seizure within the past year.
- HEART DISEASE: Typically, a person with heart disease may not become a potential donor. Heart disease includes any prior heart attack, angioplasty, bypass surgery, heart valve replacement surgery or pacemakers. Arrhythmias or mitral valve prolapses will not prevent a person from becoming a donor.
- HEPATITIS: A person with hepatitis may join the registry if he or she has a documented history of full recovery from hepatitis A and has received a vaccine to prevent hepatitis. However, if a person has had a history or risk of hepatitis B or C, as well has a history of hepatitis or yellow jaundice without a cause, he or she may not become a donor.
- LYME DISEASE: If one has recovered from Lyme disease, he or she may register to become a donor. However, anyone with chronic Lyme disease may not become a donor.
- MEDICATIONS: Some medications will limit a person’s eligibility to become a donor.
- ORGAN OR TISSUE TRANSPLANT: If a person has received human tissues such as bone, ligaments, tendons, skin or corneas, he or she may register to become a potential donor depending on the reason for the tissue transplant. However, if a person has received a human organ (heart, lung, liver or kidney), marrow, dura mater or xenotransplant, he or she may not become a donor.
- PIERCINGS: If a persona has had an ear or body part pierced within a year, he or she may become a donor, so long as the instruments were sterile and not shared.
- PREGNANCY: If a female is pregnant, she may register; however, she will be deferred until after delivery and recovery.
- SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASE: If a person has had a sexually transmitted disease, such as herpes, HPV, syphilis or Chlamydia, he or she may still become a donor.
- TATTOS: If a person has gotten a tattoo within 12 months, he or she may have to wait a year before becoming a donor.
- TUBERCULOSIS: If a person has had TB within two years, he or she cannot register. Once a person has completed treatment, he or she may register.
- WEIGHT: If a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) is overweight or underweight, a person may not become a donor.
- Risks and Side Effects of being a Donor:
There is minimal risk in being a bone marrow donor because only a small amount of bone marrow is taken. The greatest risk is undergoing general anesthesia. Because bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure, complications could also include infection, transfusion reactions or injury at needle insertion. The donor may be stiff or sore in the area from which the bone marrow was taken. Additionally, the donor may be tired. Recovery time is typically 2-3 days, but in some instances recovery requires up to 3-4 weeks.
For donors who undergo aphaeresis for PBSC donation, they typically feel minimal pain or discomfort. During the procedure, the donor may feel a myriad of side effects, including lightheadedness, chills and cramping in hands. The medication, filgrastim injections, that are given prior to the aphaeresis to release stem cells from bone marrow into the blood may cause aches, headaches, nausea and fatigue, but the side effects subside within 2-3 days. During the aphaeresis procedure, some donors feel tingling or chills from the anticoagulant, which subside after the collection is finished.