Only three steps to donate stem cells
Posted on 30 July 2017
It isn’t difficult, painful or time consuming to add your name to the South African Bone Marrow Registry.
To join The South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) your blood needs to be tested to determine your tissue type.
The SABMR has a list of over 73 000 South Africans who have signed up to donate their stem cells. These cells can save a life, or significantly improve it, for someone suffering from blood, bone or lymph cancers, or other blood diseases and disorders that are often inherited. Matching donors to recipients is tricky as the donor’s tissue type has to match the recipient’s tissue type. This is called tissue or human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing and has nothing to do with your blood group.
It involves a simple blood test, where two small vials of blood are drawn. The tissue typing test is expensive, but the R2 000 or more bill is footed by The Sunflower Fund. If you are able to carry the cost of the tissue type test yourself, or donate towards it, The Sunflower Fund can extend its reach to more potential donors.
Should your tissue type be a match for a patient the SABMR will ask you to donate stem cells. You’ll undergo a full medical check-up to ensure the donation doesn’t pose a risk to you or the recipient. If you’re in good health, you’ll be given injections to stimulate stem cell production.
‘Blood is drawn from a vein in your arm and siphoned into a blood separator, or apheresis machine, which spins it using centrifugal force to separate out the stem cells,’ explains clinical haematologist Dr Danie Kotze of Mediclinic Constantiaberg. ‘The heavy stem cells are spun to the outer layer of the centrifuge where we are then able to collect them.’
The rest of your blood is then fed back into your blood stream via a vein in your other arm. The entire process takes six hours and you can usually go home immediately afterwards.
Start your registration at The Sunflower Fund.
Number of donors in South Africa at the end of 2016:
Black: 6 469
Coloured: 5 370
White: 49 662
Asian/Indian: 7 358
Unknown: 4 554
Total: 73 413
SABMR Fact sheet 2016