Donating stem cells saves lives. Whether you’re donating for a loved one or a stranger, your gift has the chance to create a huge impact for someone living with leukemia or other cancer.
Ways to Donate Stem Cells
You can donate your stem cells:
- Directly from your bone marrow
- From your blood, a peripheral blood stem cell transplant (PBSCT)
- Through blood saved from an umbilical cord, after you've given birth
Before you can donate your stem cells, you’ll get several tests, including:
- Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing, which matches the HLA proteins in your body to the potential recipient
- A check for genetic or infectious disease
The Bone Marrow Donation Process
Bone marrow donation requires surgery and anesthesia. We’ll make small cuts in your skin in the area where we’ll remove the marrow. We then insert a large needle through the cuts and into the center of your bone, usually the pelvis. We extract the marrow through the needle.
This process takes about 1 - 2 hours. It can cause soreness. Full recovery can take a couple weeks.
The Peripheral Blood Donation Process
Peripheral blood stem cell donation (PBSC) does not require surgery. We use a needle or catheter to take your blood. This is also known as apheresis.
A few days before the procedure, we’ll give you medicine to increase your stem cell blood count. We begin the procedure by placing a needle or catheter in a vein in your neck, chest, or arm. Blood passes through the needle and tubes into a machine. This machine removes stem cells from the blood. The blood then returns to your body. We freeze and store the stem cells until we can use them.
PBSC or apheresis takes about 4 - 5 hours. Side effects could include tingling or numbness around your mouth, hand cramps, or lightheadedness during the collection process.
Umbilical Cord Blood Donation
You can donate your baby’s umbilical cord blood to a public cord blood bank after giving birth. Umbilical cords generate stem cells that form blood. We can freeze and save this blood for future use or for donation.
Donating your baby's umbilical cord blood to a public cord blood bank is:
Cord blood offers several benefits to people needing a stem cell transplant. Choosing cord blood for a bone marrow transplant means:
- Quicker transplants, since doctors can access the blood from a bank immediately, instead of searching for a living donor
- Treatment for people with rare tissue types, since cord blood doesn't need to match closely with donor tissue in order to work
- Less risk of rejection by the transplant recipient
Sign Up as a Stem Cell Donor
You can get started by:
- If you’re the relative of a current UVA patient, registering as a donor with UVA
- Getting listed with Be the Match to become a national registry donor