Blood and bone marrow donation

If you are planning to donate blood and bone marrow, you've agreed to allow doctors to draw blood stem cells from your blood or bone marrow for transplantation. Blood stem cells are the cells that make all of the body's blood cells. They form and mature in the bone marrow, and are then released into the bloodstream. Although they're called "stem cells," these cells aren't the same as the embryonic stem cells studied in therapeutic cloning and other types of research.

In the past, surgery to draw marrow from the bone was the only way to collect blood stem cells. Today, however, it's more common to collect blood stem cells directly from the blood. This is called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation.

Blood stem cells can also be collected from umbilical cord blood at birth. However, only a small amount of blood can be retrieved from the umbilical cord, so this type of transplant is generally reserved for children and small adults.

Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect

Every year, more than 10,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases, such as leukemia or lymphoma, for which a stem cell transplant is the best or the only treatment. Donated blood stem cells are needed for these transplantations.

You might be considering donating blood or bone marrow because someone in your family needs a stem cell transplant and doctors think you might be a match for that person. Or perhaps you want to help someone else — maybe even someone you don't know — who's waiting for a stem cell transplant.

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