What is it like to donate stem cells?

Donate Stem Cells

In previous articles we discussed how stem cell treatments could possibly treat a variety of conditions ranging from diabetes and Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. Of course, for scientists to work on finding treatments, they need people to donate their stem cells.

But how do they exactly go about obtaining these cells? Donations, and lots of them.

Stem cell donations tend to receive a bad reputation, according to The Telegraph, who cited Ann O’Leary, Head of Register Development at charity Anthony Nolan. However, it’s not as bad as some make it out to be.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths out there about what’s involved in donation,” O’ Leary said. “But it’s actually a very safe, straightforward process. There is usually a little short-term discomfort and inconvenience, but those who donate always say it’s completely out-weighed by the amazing feeling that you may have saved someone’s life.”

” The Mayo Clinic reports that the most serious side effects are basic drowsiness or weakness due to anesthesia.”

Common side effects
Common side effects for bone marrow extraction includes some fatigue, muscle pain and bruising. However, these are not long term or life threatening and the amount of marrow taken from the body will not weaken a person’s immune system. The side effects for other donations may slightly differ. According to the National Marrow Donor Program, all stem cell procedures are safe, and close to 99 percent of marrow donors fully recover within a few weeks. The Mayo Clinic reports that the most serious side effects are basic drowsiness or weakness due to anesthesia.

Process
According to The Telegraph, who reported on the process given by Aaron Kay, a medical student at Newcastle University, “the process is fairly simple.”

Prior to donating, a blood test is completed to help doctors figure out the donor’s HLA type. The fee for this blood test can range from $75 to $100, but is tax-deductible.

The process of extracting stem cell is different for each type of cell, according to the American Cancer Society. For example, for bone marrow withdrawals, a patient is placed under general anesthesia and the marrow is taken from the back of the hip bone. Peripheral blood stem cells are extracted through a vein in a person’s arm or chest. Umbilical cord blood, on the other hand, is much simpler. For free, parents can donate their children’s umbilical cords to research. Each procedure, other than the umbilical cord, is done in one sitting and usually takes an hour or two, although it can go longer.

For people looking to donate stem cells, they should first talk to their doctors and then contact the National Marrow Donor Program.