Frequently Asked Questions
PERIPHERAL BLOOD STEM CELL COLLECTION
This is the most likely method of collecting your stem cells. Blood stem cells are found in the bone marrow and also in the circulating blood stream (peripheral blood) but in smaller numbers. A growth factor known as granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) occurs naturally in the body and regulates the production of granuloycytes and stem cells. Neupogen, which is a man-made form of G-CSF, is injected daily for five days prior to the collection. This temporarily boosts granulocyte production and encourages movement of the stem cells from the bone marrow where the cells are made, out into the peripheral (circulating) blood.
BONE MARROW STEM CELL COLLECTION
This method is seldom used in South Africa, however if it is in the patient’s best interest, the patient’s doctor might request a bone marrow stem cell collection instead. Stem cells are made in the bone marrow, mature and are then released into the blood stream. On the day of donation you will be admitted to hospital early in the morning. The marrow collection process is a surgical procedure that occurs in a hospital operating theatre while you receive general anaesthesia. Some of your marrow is removed from the back of your pelvic bone, using sterile needles and syringes. The amount collected depends on the needs of the patient and the size of the donor.
For more information, watch this short video created by one of our international partners
Every healthy person between 16 and 45 can be a donor. “Tissue-types” are inherited characteristics, used in matching donors and patients. The likelihood, therefore, of finding a suitable volunteer will be considerably greater within the same ethnic background. Accordingly all racial groups are welcome.
An organisation that registers potential bone marrow donors and already has 73 000 participants. It was started in 1991 and has been designated as the Hub centre for this continent. As such, we are responsible for coordinating the provision of unrelated donors for our patients in association with a world wide database of >39 million donors and cord blood units.
Every year thousands of individuals with blood diseases such as leukemia, marrow failure or aplasia, and inherited metabolic and immune deficiency syndromes reach a stage where only this procedure offers a chance of cure.
Family members, particularly brothers and sisters are generally most suitable. However, due to the average family size, only about 30% of patients have a compatible sibling.
The patient’s diseased marrow is destroyed by combinations of chemo therapy and radiation. The graft from the healthy donor is given intravenously. Thereafter the blood forming stem cells travel to cavities in the large bones and, following engraftment, begin producing normal blood.
This is the tissue that could be regarded as the factory for the production of red cells to carry oxygen, white cells to fight infection and platelets to prevent bleeding.
In the same way as red cell blood groups exist, so white cells can be categorised into groups known as “tissue-types”. Very many possible tissue types exist, so that finding the correct match depends upon having a very large register of volunteers. Although there are over 33 million donors registered worldwide some searches are still not successful.
Volunteers, if deemed to be suitable, need to have a small blood sample taken and sent to our laboratories for tissue-typing. The results are placed on an international computer registry.
Potential matching donors will be asked to provide further blood samples to help select the donor matches best for a particular patient.
You are completely free to change your mind at any moment, up to the moment you are asked to donate. Most donors are delighted to hear that they have been chosen to donate – after all, that’s why they joined the Registry.
The medical procedure for obtaining stem cells is called a stem cell collection. If you are asked to donate you would be required to attend a specialist collection centre in South Africa.
Unfortunately the field of bone marrow transplantation is complex and a number of patients still die of complications despite the best medical care. Increasing numbers of successful transplants are being carried out using matched unrelated donors. However, donors can only be assured that they offer the hope of a future to patients whose disease would almost certainly otherwise prove fatal.
Platelets are a component of blood whose function (along with the coagulation factors) is to react to bleeding from blood vessel injury by clumping, thereby stopping and/or regulating the bleed.