Some Facts About Bone Marrow and Bone Marrow Dontation

-Neutropenia Support Association Inc. Newsletter, Volume 6.1 Fall 1994

  • Bone Marrow is a pulpy tissue found inside the long bones such as the ribs, breastbone or pelvis. Bone marrow can be compared to a factory where red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are made.
  • Bone Marrow transplants are used to treat patients suffering from some forms of leukemia and other diseases affecting the function of the bone marrow. Many of these diseases, if untreated, are fatal.
  • A bone marrow donor provides the replacement marrow used in a transplant.
  • A bone marrow donor must be compatible with the recipient or the marrow will be rejected by the recipient, or may possibly attack the other tissues in the recipient’s body.
  • Compatibility is determined by matching specific protein markers or HLA-type on the cells of the donor and the recipient.
  • HLA-type or Human Leukocyte Antigens are proteins carried on white cells, platelets and other cells of the body, including bone marrow.
  • Family members are usually used as bone marrow donors because HLA-type is inherited.
  • However, only 30 to 40% of patients needing a bone marrow transplant have a compatible donor in their family.
  • An unrelated bone marrow donor is less likely to be compatible with a recipient because HLA-type is determined by inherited genes, which may or may not be shared outside a family.
  • A registry of unrelated bone marrow donors provides a large data base of potential donors by HLA-type. The larger the list, the greater the chances of finding a compatible donor.
  • A computer search of a registry of donors will increase the chance of finding an unrelated compatible bone marrow donor.
  • Unrelated bone marrow donors must meet the same eligibility requirements as a blood donor. Generally donors are less than 60 years of age because donating marrow involves minor surgery.