In the recent years, the incidence of dangerous and highly invasive cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, as well as sickle cell anemia and immunodeficiency disorders has increased tremendously, affecting not only people over the age of 60, but also young adults, adolescents and even children below the age of ten.
These chronic and grave disorders portray a common feature of weakening the immune system and regenerative capacity of the blood, in the affected individual.
One highly effective treatment measure is to transplant stem cells, from the bone marrow of a healthy individual to the person suffering from these serious life-threatening ailments. However, people worldwide are still quite unaware of what stem cell donation is, how a bone marrow transplant is carried out and how they can become a donor.
In this regard, government and organizations like World Marrow Donor Association (WMDA) are consistently spreading awareness about the medical procedure involved in bone marrow transplantation and the accuracy of maintaining patient and donor records must be commended.
The primary goal of these efforts is to encourage healthy adults to step forward and sign up to be a bone marrow donor, whether they are unrelated people or family members, of the patients in need of stem cell transplantation.
The secondary objective involves raising awareness amongst the public, on the impact stem cell donation has on their health, as well as the herculean challenges that patients must face, upon undergoing blood stem cell transplantation.
Understandably, many of these terminologies might still confuse you, as bone marrow donation is still relatively lesser-known or even heard of, under the wide ambit of organ donation, when compared to donating your eyes or kidneys. Read on, to find the answers to some of your most frequently asked questions regarding bone marrow and stem cell donation. Also Read: Bone Marrow Transplantation Gives A New Lease Of Life
1. What Are “Blood Stem Cells”?
Blood stem cells are the unique cell type found mainly in the bone marrow, which is the spongy tissue present inside some bones in the body, such as in the hips and thighs. These are intrinsically precursor cells, which can develop into any one of the three major cell types namely:
Red Blood Cells (RBC’s) Or Erythrocytes:
These supply essential nutrients to various organs in the body such as the brain and muscles.
White Blood Cells (WBC’s) Or Leukocytes:
These cells are specialized to confer protection to other body cells, against invading foreign pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and fungi.
These perform the crucial role of blood clotting, when tissues in the body face any injury and thus, ensure prompt wound healing.
2. What Is Stem Cell Transplantation?
This is an advanced medical procedure wherein the patient’s defective stem cells are replaced with healthy blood stem cells from the donor.
3. Who Exactly Requires Stem Cell Transplantations?
Any patient who is suffering from a severe ailment that obstructs the body from synthesizing, in a healthy manner, the three blood cell types in adequate quantities will need a stem cell transplant. Some of the major ailments which present this scenario include leukemia or blood cancer, lymphoma, thalassemia, sickle cell anemia and many other immunodeficiency disorders, which currently affect tens of thousands of patients globally, encompassing youngsters and the elderly alike.
4. Will My Data Be Protected Once I Sign Up To Be A Stem Cell Donor?
Yes, as long as you approach an organization that is approved, you have full authority to donate blood stem cells from your bone marrow to any patient, related to you or unrelated. Bone stem cell donation is only performed with complete informed consent from the donor. You can also withdraw your consent to donate if any pressing circumstances arise at your end.
5. How Safe Is It To Donate Stem Cells From My Bone Marrow?
Stem cell donation is a standardized medical protocol, performed under total sterile conditions. No hospital practice is absolutely risk-free, but donors only experience mild discomfort, itching and nausea upon having their stem cells extracted. Also, the bone marrow of the healthy donor will replenish the supply of stem cells, thereby guaranteeing complete recovery and optimal health, post undergoing this regulated procedure.