The Need for Marrow and Stem Cells

Marrow and stem cell transplants are a life-saving treatment option for the more than 30,000 patients each year who are diagnosed with diseases of the blood and immune system, including leukemia, lymphoma and certain genetic disorders.

A marrow or stem cell transplant requires matching tissue types between a patient and a donor. These tissue types are inherited, but 70 percent of patients do not have a matched donor in their family. These patients must rely on the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP) to search for an unrelated volunteer donor. Through a diverse Registry of more than 5 million potential adult donors and 30,000 cord blood units, the NMDP provides a single point of access for all sources of blood cells used in transplantation.

All patients, but especially those of diverse backgrounds, will continue to benefit from the addition of adult donors of varied races and ethnicities to the Registry to help ensure the accessibility to all transplant treatment options.

What is marrow?


Marrow is the soft tissue inside the bones that produces the bloodforming stem cells that transplant patients need to make healthy new marrow. These immature cells can develop into any of the cells present in the blood stream: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The three sources for blood-forming stem cells are marrow, peripheral (circulating) blood, and blood collected from the umbilical cord after a baby is born.

Who needs marrow and blood cell transplants?

Marrow and stem cell transplantation has become the only real “cure” for many diseases. Each year, 30,000 new patients are diagnosed with leukemia, anemia, immune system disorders, and a number of other life-threatening diseases. Only 30 percent of these patients will find a matched donor in their families. The other 70 percent must search for an unrelated donor.

Why are more minority donors needed?

Marrow and stem cell transplants require matching certain tissue traits of the donor and patient. Because these traits are inherited, a patient’s most likely match is someone of the same heritage. Although more minority patients are finding donors for their transplants, they are still less likely than Caucasians to identify a matched donor. Minority patients will continue to benefit from the addition of more American Indian and Alaska Natives, Asians, Black and African Americans, Hispanic and Latinos, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders to the Registry. As more donors from these communities join the Registry, patients of every racial and ethnic background will have a better chance of finding a matched donor for transplantation.

What is the National Marrow Donor Program?

The NMDP helps to make life-saving marrow and blood cell transplants possible by connecting patients, physicians, donors and researchers to the resources they need.
The NMDP is responsible for:

  • Managing the world’s largest and most diverse donor Registry—a listing of more than 5 million volunteers and 30,000 cord blood units to help any patient in need.
  • Working through an impressive international Network of leading hospitals and blood centers in the U.S. and 30 countries around the world.
  • Facilitating more than 2,200 transplants annually, and has provided more than 18,000 patients a second chance at life.

If I am someone’s match, how do I donate marrow?

Marrow donation is a surgical procedure. While you receive anesthesia, doctors use special, hollow needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bones. Many donors receive a transfusion of their own previously donated blood.

You can expect to feel some soreness in your lower back for a few days or longer. Most donors are back to their normal routine in a few days. Your marrow is completely replaced within four to six weeks. Your NMDP donor center coordinator will follow up with you until you are able to resume normal activity. You will also receive annual calls for long-term follow-up.

Can I sign-up for the Marrow Registry through LifeSouth?

Thousands of patients hope for a bone marrow donor who can make their life-saving transplant possible. They depend on people like you. You have the power to save a life. Take the first step today and visit any LifeSouth fixed blood collection site, blood mobile, or contact us by phone at 1-888-795-2707 or by email. LifeSouth will ensure your eligibility and mail the collection kit to you. The collection kit helps you provide cells from the inside of cheek for the required tests. It will take 6-8 weeks to complete the tests and add you to the registry. You will then receive a welcome to the registry letter. LifeSouth can also help you set up a sign-up drive for a specific patient in need. Click here for more information.

LifeSouth will provide the collection kit for you to join the registry free of charge. We encourage registrants to pay it forward and sponsor another person that may want to join the registry. Your help covering this cost for others who may want to participate but can not afford it, is an essential part of keeping the registry viable to conduct its life saving work.

If you are interested in paying it forward and sponsoring others to join the registry, please click here. Your contributions are greatly appreciated.