Bone marrow is located in most bones and is responsible for manufacturing blood cells. Certain diseases, such as Leukemia, cause the bone marrow to malfunction and to produce abnormal cells. For many people suffering from these diseases, a bone marrow transplant is the only hope for long term survival.
A bone marrow transplant is a procedure where a patient's own bone marrow is destroyed using high doses of chemotherapy and radiation. Normal bone marrow cells are then infused in much the same way as a blood transfusion. The healthy bone marrow can come from a variety of donors depending on the type of disease:
In all cases, the donor must have the same HLA type (tissue type) as the patient. Many patients are able to find a bone marrow donor with the same HLA type, but many are not. Imagine how devastating it would be to know that your life threatening disease could be cured, if only the right person joined the bone marrow registry.
Many people think that donating bone marrow is the same as giving blood. This is not the case. There are only a handful of blood types so it is easy to find someone with the same blood type as you. In contrast, there are thousands of HLA types so it is very difficult to find a match if you need a bone marrow transplant.
In order for a patient to receive a bone marrow transplant, their donor must be of the same ethnicity. In the Canadian bone marrow registry, ethnicities other than caucasian are vastly under represented. Here are some statistics about the Canadian OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network published in a Toronto Star article on October 2, 2006 that illustrate the pressing need for donors of various ethnicities to step forward and join the registry.
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All that is needed to determine your HLA type is a simple blood test. Please join the bone marrow registry in your country today!