If you follow me on instagram you may have seen me post the photograph pictured above of two swabs. The swabs have been sent off to determine my tissue type so that my details can be placed anonymously onto the register of potential donors.
Any healthy adult between the ages of 18-55 who lives in the UK can become a potential blood stem cell donor.
There are some exceptions though and it’s worth reading the important exclusion criteria below before applying for a pack.
- Heart disease (e.g., previous heart attack, coronary heart disease)
- Lung diseases (i.e. severe bronchial asthma)
- Diseases of the haematopoietic system
- Severe kidney diseases
- Severe illnesses of the central nervous system
- HIV or AIDS
- Metabolic diseases (e.g. diabetes)
- Autoimmune conditions (e.g. rheumatism)
- Severe infectious diseases (e.g. infectious jaundice, chronic hepatitis B and C)
- Weight under 7 stone 12 lbs/50 kg
- Obesity (i.e. body mass index (BMI) > 40)
As a potential stem cell donor, your tissue type will be matched using human leukocyte antigen typing. HLA are proteins or markers found on all cells in your body. These proteins are used by your immune system to recognise which cells belong in your body and which cells do not. If these proteins do not match, the patient’s body would reject the given stem cells of the donor. A close match means that the patient’s immune system would recognise your blood system as its own. With more than 8,500 known characteristics that can occur in millions of combinations, finding a match is extremely rare.
Approximately 70% of patients who need a transplant do not have a suitable donor and rely on the register to find an unrelated donor. In these cases, the patient’s doctor will search for an unrelated adult donor, or alternatively for a cord blood donation. To be considered a match, the patient and donor must have at least 8 out of 10 tissue characteristics in common, but ideally should have 10.
For every donor there is only a 4-5% chance that they will match a patient within the next ten years, so it is a bit like winning the lottery. You will only become part of this figure if your tissue type is very closely matched to a specific patient in need.
Interested in signing up? Register now to help delete blood cancer.
Disclaimer: I wasn’t asked to write this, I feel it is something that needs promoting.