Facts And References

Bone Marrow Facts
1. What is bone marrow?

Bone marrow is a spongy tissue found inside bones. The bone marrow in the breast
bone, skull, hips, ribs and spine contains stem cells that produce the body’s blood
cells. These blood cells include white blood cells (leukocytes), which fight infection,
red blood cells ( erythrocytes), which carry oxygen to and remove waste products
from organs and tissues: and platelets, which enables the blood to clot.

2. What exactly is a marrow transplant?

Simply, it is the replacement of diseased marrow with marrow from a healthy donor
infused into a patient’s veins through an IV, just like a blood transfusion. Within
two to three weeks the transplanted marrow begins to produce normal blood cells
in the patient.

3. Which diseases can be treated with marrow transplantation?

Various types of leukemia, aplastic anemia, severe combined immune deficiency syndrome,
sickle cell anemia, and radiation poisoning can be treated with marrow transplantation.

4. How many persons are registered potential donors?

As of 2013 , the National Marrow Donor Program included more than 10.5 million
individuals in the registry.

5. How many ethnic minorities are registered?

720,000 African Americans (7%)
115,000 American Indian/Alaskan Native (1%)
720,000 Asian/South Asian (7%)
1,000,000 Hispanic/Lation (10%)
395,000 Multiple Race (4%)
16,000 Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander (0.2%)
According to the latest statistics ethnic minorities are severely under-represented
(Be the Match Registry Jul 2013)

6. What do these numbers mean to minorities?

Checking stats for specifics….Please check back with us

7. What is the Judie Davis Marrow Donor Recruitment Program?

The Judie Davis Marrow Donor Recruitment Program was inspired in 1989 by an African-American
woman who died after failing to find a match in the National Registry. The organization
was started to increase the level of African-American and other minority participation
in the national registry.

8. What happens to the patient after a successful transplant?

If the transplant is successful, the new marrow begins to produce normal, healthy
blood cells within two to three weeks. The patient has received the chance of a

9. Who pays the total cost to donate my marrow?

Not you – the patient or his/her medical insurance does.

10. Will I ever have the opportunity to meet the recipient of my marrow?

Yes, one year after the transplant, but ONLY if the donor is willing to meet.

11. Are family members eligible to be my donor?

Yes. About 30% of the people who need marrow transplants have a relative, usually
a brother or a sister, who can donate. The likelihood of finding a match is much
higher within a person’s own ethnic group.

12. Can I withdraw as a donor at any time if I want to?

Up until the time you provide us with your final, legal consent to proceed with
the transplant – YES, but hopefully, you won’t change your mind, as so much is at
stake for the patient needing your help.

13. What happens if I am a match?

If you are found to be a first level match with a patient needing a transplant,
you will be contacted immediately and you will be given the option of proceeding
to a second and third blood test to insure final HLA compatibility with the patient,
(both test, authorized by the patient’s physician, are paid for by the patient or
his/her medical insurance plan.) Then, if the match is confirmed, the transplant
can be scheduled, but only with your legal consent, given after in-depth counseling
and thorough physical examination.

14. How is the marrow extracted?

First, you are given light general anesthesia so that you feel nothing during the
procedure. Second, only 2% to 3% of your marrow is harvested from your hip area
through special sterile needles. Third, you are released from the hospital after
a day of tender loving care.

15. Does it hurt?

You feel nothing during the procedure, but may experience some residual soreness
in the lower back area for a few days.

16. Are there any risks?

Other than the remote chance of a reaction to anesthesia or an infection, the risks
are minimal. This will be explained to you in detail.

17. What are the actual chances of finding a suitable marrow donor?

The odds are 1 in 20,000 of identifying an unrelated, compatible marrow donor…much
higher, however, for patients of minority heritage. YOU could be that special life-giving

18. Are donors matched only against American patients?

No. The patient could be anywhere in the world. Many, many American patients have
found donors from international donor sources.

19. Who can become a donor?

Anyone can become a donor, however at a Donor Drive the guidelines are 1) Be between 18 and 44 years of age 2) Meet the health guidelines. 3) Willing to donate to any patient you may match
Ages 45-60 must register online at www.bethematch.org.

20. How do you get started in becoming a donor?

Attend a donor drive, complete a consent form and health questionaire. If eligible you will self administer a cheek swab


These facts were compiled from the following references:

  • African-American Community Health Advisory Committee
  • American Bone Marrow Registry
  • Bone Marrow Transplant News

Read more about Bone Marrow Donations Nationally: