After signing up as a donor for the Bone Marrow Donor Programme, I decided to find out more about the stem cell harvesting procedure that was described to me.
The alternative procedure is called apheresis, which is the collection of stem cells by filtering the blood for peripheral (circulating) blood cells (PBSC).
I extracted the following from the the url below:
Sources of Bone Marrow Stem Cells
- Bone marrow harvest: Collecting stem cells by taking them directly out of the bone.
- Apheresis: Collecting stem cells by filtering the blood for peripheral (circulating) blood cells (PBSC).
- Umbilical cord blood: Stem cells are filtered from blood in the umbilical cord after a baby is born.
What the Donor Experiences
If stem cells are collected by bone marrow harvest (much less likely), the donor will go to the operating room and while asleep under anesthesia, a needle will be inserted into either the hip or the breastbone to take out some bone marrow. After awakening, he/she may feel some pain where the needle was inserted.
What the Recipient Experiences
Serious problems can occur during the time that the bone marrow is gone or very low. Infections are common, as is anemia, and low platelets in the blood can cause dangerous bleeding internally. Recipients often receive blood transfusions to treat these problems while they are waiting for the new stem cells to start growing.
The majority of marrow stem cell transplants are made using PBSC collected by apheresis, since this method has better results for both the donor and the recipient.In most cases, a donation is made using circulating stem cells (PBSC) collected by apheresis. First, the donor receives injections for a few days of a medication that causes stem cells to move out of the bone marrow and into the blood. For the stem cell collection, the donor is connected to a machine by a needle inserted in the vein (like for blood donation). Blood is taken from the vein, filtered by the machine to collect the stem cells, then returned back to the donor through a needle in the other arm. There is almost no need for a recovery time with this procedure.Bone marrow transplant is a difficult procedure to go through. Usually the person receives high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation to eliminate whatever bone marrow he/she has left and make room for the new marrow transplant. Once this is done, the new stem cells are put into the person intravenously, like a blood transfusion. The stem cells will then find their way to the bone and start to grow and produce more cells (called engraftment).
Here’s video about how a person’s life was saved with stem cell donation from another person. The donor gives a first hand account of how the aphresis procedure was done and what it was about. And of course, at the end of it, the gratification that comes from saving another individual’s life.
Visit the Bone Marrow Donor Programme to find out more about signing up as a potential donor.
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