Many people in the world suffer from serious diseases that have bone marrow transplantation as their only solution. In this article, we tell you how non-sick people can help by donating bone marrow. Bone marrow donation appears as a humanitarian and facilitating action for bone marrow transplantation. Non-sick people can help patients with serious pathologies who are at risk of life.
The diseases that most frequently benefit from a bone marrow transplant, among others, are:
- Aplastic anemia
What is Bone Marrow?
The bone marrow is a tissue of the human body responsible for producing blood cells and part of the immune system. Within the bone marrow are those known as stem cells. The most specific scientific name of these cells is that of hematopoietic progenitors. This is due to their ability to give rise to blood cells:
- Red blood cells or red blood cells
- White blood cells or leukocytes
- Platelets or thrombocytes
The diseases of the bone marrow are those in which altered the ability of the tissue to actually produce these cells. Either due to excessive, insufficient or abnormal production. For many of these diseases, the solution lies in a bone marrow transplant. And there, bone marrow donation plays an important role.
Bone Marrow Transplant
A bone marrow transplant basically involves replacing the diseased bone marrow tissue – present inside the bones – with healthy tissue. It is also known as stem cell transplantation since it is these cells that are mainly grafted. But it is not possible for all sick people to receive bone marrow tissue from any donor. Compatibility is essential for success and to avoid subsequent more serious complications. That is why we talk about compatible and non-compatible donors.
Compatibility in bone marrow donation is determined by the human leukocyte antigen (HLA). HLA is a group of proteins from several cells, especially white blood cells. It is a recognition system that the human body has to determine what is proper and what is foreign.
Each person has their own HLA system. That particular identity serves the immune system to defend the body from the external that can make it sick. Of course, HLA cannot distinguish between bacteria, for example, and bone marrow donation tissue.
If the HLA between two individuals is similar enough, the bone marrow donation will be accepted by the recipient. Otherwise, the recipient body will reject the external tissue. Much of the success of the operation is in the degree of HLA compatibility between donor and recipient.
How is Bone Marrow Donation Done?
When a person decides to be a bone marrow donor, they will most likely have a peripheral blood stem cell collection (PBSC). First, five days before the donation itself, the donor will receive one injection per day of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). The administration of the injection lasts about five minutes and causes the stem cells to move from the bone marrow to the circulating blood.
Once the stimulation with injectables is completed, the donated tissue must be removed. To do this, a needle is placed in each arm. One of the needles draws blood to circulate through a machine that will obtain the stem cells, while the blood returns to the body through the other needle.
The extraction takes about three hours in total and it may be necessary to repeat it the next day. Some minimal adverse effects may occur in the donor, such as headache and bone pain. Less frequently it may be necessary to collect tissue directly from the bone. This type of bone marrow donation is not the one indicated regularly. The professionals will decide if one or the other is appropriate for each case. This technique is more complex and is considered surgery.
Donors undergoing direct bone marrow collection should rest for about a week after the procedure. The adverse effects are more intense and more lasting.
Bone Marrow Donation Requirements
In general, to be a suitable donor you need to meet a series of requirements:
- Age between eighteen and fifty-five years.
- Weigh more than fifty kilos.
- Not suffer from a disease that can be transmitted to the recipient of the donation.
- Being healthy enough not to put one’s life at risk when donating.
The first step is to sign the informed consent accepting the donation. Once signed, a blood sample will be drawn to the potential donor to analyze the HLA and upload that information to a database. When the time comes, if an effective donation is required because there is a compatible recipient, the collection will take place in a hemotherapy center.
Each country and each region have its bone marrow donation registration system. You can check in the health centers near your home to learn more about how the subject is organized in the area where you live.