As a stem cell donor you can save a life. For patients with leukaemia or other types of blood disorders a stem cell transplant can be lifesaving. You can give someone that chance of life by registering as a stem cell donor.
Importance of healthy stem cells
Stem cells are located in the bone marrow and are responsible for making different blood cells. These blood cells are needed for the transport of oxygen, to fight infections and prevent bleeding. For a patient with a severe blood disease, this process is disturbed and causes the patient to end up in a life-threatening situation.
The patient is treated with a chemotherapy or radiotherapy dose which is that high, it causes irreparably damage to the bone marrow. Thus both good and bad cells are destroyed.
A stem cell transplant gives patients properly functioning stem cells which start producing new blood cells themselves. In addition, the stem cells of the donor can also ensure that small tumor residues or cancer cells that are left behind in a patient are attacked and destroyed. As a stem cell donor, you give a patient the chance to heal fully from the disease.
Many donors needed
A patient cannot receive stem cells from everyone. It is very important that the tissue typing (HLA) of the donors stem cells is as closely a match as possible with that of the patient.
If the patient's immune system considers the stem cells “different”, serious or even fatal complications arise. The best chance of finding a match is within your own family. Unfortunately, only 30% of patients in his or her family find a suitable donor. If this fails, a search will start for an unrelated donor in the world wide stem cell donor registry. The chance is extremely small that you will be a match with a person somewhere in the world. In order to find a suitable donor for all patients, it is therefore important that many donors are registered. Research shows that the chance of a patient recovering is bigger when the stem cells come from a young donor.
For patients with a non-Western background, finding a suitable stem cell donor is even more difficult. Relatively speaking, very few people of non-Western ancestry are registered worldwide as stem cell donors. The same applies to donors of mixed ancestry. The ancestry of the donor and patient often matches.
For example, if a patient is (partly) Turkish, the chance of a match is greatest with a donor who is also (partly) Turkish. To be able to help these patients, it is therefore very important that more people of mixed or non-Western descent register as stem cell donors.