Myths – and facts – around bone marrow and stem cell transplants
Posted on 14 September 2018
A person who has a disease or condition that prevents their body from making enough healthy blood cells may need a blood stem cell transplant. Sunflower Fund CEO Alana James explains.
A stem cell transplant is a medical procedure performed to replace the bone marrow that has been damaged or destroyed by disease, infection, or chemotherapy. This procedure involves transplanting blood stem cells, which travel to the bone marrow where they produce new blood cells and promote the growth of new marrow.
Regarding the perception that it is a painful procedure to donate, the pelvis contains the largest number of blood stem cells. For this reason, cells from the cavity in the pelvic bone were primarily used for a bone marrow donation. This is where the thought of drilling into bones comes from.
Normally, only very few stem cells are found in the blood. However, these days hormone-like substances called growth factors are given to blood stem cell donors a few days before the collection or harvesting process. This causes their blood stem cells to grow faster and to move from the bone marrow into the bloodstream. “The latter procedure is more commonly used worldwide and is referred to as peripheral blood stem cell donation,” says James. It is important to note that patients are also given medication to decrease any possible discomfort.