Stem Cell Donation


OK so I’ve registered…what next?

Registering on the Anthony Nolan Database (whether directly with Anthony Nolan or via Delete Blood Cancer) gives medical professionals a single point of contact to find potential matches for desperately ill individuals requiring a stem cell transplant…Such enquiries can come from anywhere in the world! The UK has a reciprocal arrangement with many countries and regularly interrogates these additional databases to find a match for someone in need when a national search has been unsuccessful.

I registered years ago and haven’t heard anything?

 

The tissue match has to be very precise unlike the relatively small number of blood groups the permutations for donor/recipient stem cell compatibility number in the millions! As such having registered you may never be asked to donate stem cells…

What happens if you are lucky enough to be a match?

The saliva/mouth swab sample you gave to register provides a high level indicator that you may be a stem cell match. You are likely to be asked for a sample of blood for more precise tissue typing. This can be done locally and can quickly confirm if you can move to the next stage in the process. A medical examination will also be conducted to safeguard the welfare of donor and recipient…If all goes well and the further tests are positive you will be asked to become a stem cell donor…

Anthony Nolan have produced a short video that explains registration and the two donation methods (see below). Please note there is reference in the video to taking a trip to London for Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Collection (PBSC) is not always applicable, some regional hospitals such have facilities to collect stem cells for this procedure….

The Donation Process…

Stem cells can be harvested in two ways, the request as to the preferred method will come from the patients hospital consultant and will be based on medical considerations…

Method 1: Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Collection (PBSC) Used in 90% of cases…

Preparation…three/four days prior to stem cell donation the donor will be given one injection per day. These injections are a natural hormone (you would produce this hormone if you got injured to jump start you’re immune system) these injections help the body produce and release extra stem cells into the blood. These injections can be given by a family member or a nurse arranged to come to your home or a place of work.

Arrangements will then be made for the donor to go along to an appropriate hospital where their blood is channelled through a special machine using a tiny tube in the arm very similar to any other blood donation. The machine extracts the extra stem cells you have produced as a result of the injections. Having harvested the stem cells another tube returns the donors own blood back to them.

The process takes about four hours so take a good book or magazine to keep you occupied. The donor will go home as soon as they have donated. There are no long term health implications, some donors may experience cold like symptoms for one or two days caused by the course of preparatory injections but this reaction will soon wear off.

Method 2: Bone Marrow Harvest

This method is not used very often these days but is perhaps the source of much of the myth and misinformation regarding stem cell donation with many a fictitious story of doctors “drilling into bones”. In reality this relatively short procedure albeit more invasive than PBSC involves the direct harvesting of stem cells from the rear pelvis under general anaesthetic, for this reason the donor will usually stay overnight in hospital to ensure no adverse reaction to the anaesthetic. There are no long term adverse health implications for the donor which typically involve some minor lower back pain for a day or so once the anaesthetic wears off.

You have now donated stem cells…you will quickly regenerate your own stem cells back to normal levels in a matter of days.

Have a read of a real donors experience here…

Want to know more? …have a read of the frequently asked questions…