What is it all about? Some basic information:
Blood in our body has different components like red and white cells and plasma. Lifespan of blood cells ranges from a few days to a few months only. New cells need to be made continuously to replace the dying cells. The manufacturing site for these cells is in the bone marrow, which is located in the center of our bones.
Like the other parts of the body, blood itself can get diseases. Blood cancer is called leukemia. Another closely related cancer is Lymphoma. Genetic defects can also happen in the blood. Common ones are sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. The later, which is not uncommon in Indians<, in its severe form, kills children by the time, they become 4-5 year old.
Unlike other parts of the body, where the diseased (cancerous) part can be surgically removed, blood has no such option. To deal with the blood disease we must destroy the whole defective bone marrow and implant a new bone marrow. The new marrow then makes good blood and patient survives. This process is called Bone marrow transplantation.
What is the "Registry” and why do we need it?
Every person has a gene that is different from others. Body will reject tissue that is not own. That is why we need to match the blood before blood transfusion. We must do more meticulous matching while transplanting organs like kidney , heart and liver. For bone marrow transplant, the matching has to be still more rigorous. It is done at genetic level with HLA ( Human Leukocyte antigens). This is so difficult that only 30% family members can match. The rest have to find it anywhere in the world. Willing people give their genetic sample, which is stored and matched with the needy.
Why we need Indians to participate:
Indian subcontinent genes are different than that of the Caucasian, Afro-American, oriental and Hispanic genes. This is shown clearly with differ skin color and features etc.. Although the National marrow Donor program (NMDP) has millions of registered donors, very few are from Indian heritage. This unfortunately results in unnecessary death of our children and adults.
What is bone marrow donation and how is it done?
There are three basic ways of bone marrow donation:
1, Bone marrow donation: Here bone marrow is directly taken from the waist bone.
2, Blood donation (also called Peripheral blood stem cell) : Here the donor has two needles , like the one used in blood donation. Through one, the blood is withdrawn, its stem cells are separated and the rest of the blood is transfused back ,with the other needle.
3, Cord blood Transplant: As a baby is born, its umbilical cord is cut and the rest thrown away with the placenta. Rather than throwing it away, its blood can be harvested, with parental permission. Although this is not as good as bone marrow, yet, the process is so simple, that all of us should check with the hospital, if they have the facility to harvest the cord blood and do it. A life may be saved.
How do we get in the donor pool, the registry?
The process is very simple. One only has to take a Q tip swab from inside the cheek. We can send the swab by mail to your home. There will be a stamped envelope to return the swab to the registry. So there is no cost involved. This used to be done by only taking the blood sample in the past which can also be done.
How do I register? Only people who are 18-35 year age can register;
After filling the information you will be taken to bethematch.org, where you should register.
What are my chances of getting called to donate?
HLA matching is so complex, that most people In the registry will never be called. Yet you should only register, if you are serious about helping save a life. This is because, if a patient somehow matches with you, you may be the only chance for that patient to live.