Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant Overview
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What is a stem cell?
Stem cells are blood-forming cells found in bone marrow (inside the bones) and in umbilical cord blood. Stem cells are the "parent" cells of the main components of blood: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
- Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body's tissues
- White blood cells fight infection
- Platelets help to prevent bleeding
There are three sources of stem cells used in allogeneic transplant.
- Bone marrow from a family member or unrelated donor. While under general anesthesia, bone marrow is withdrawn with a needle from the hip bone.
- Peripheral (circulating) blood stem cells from a family member or unrelated donor. The donor takes injections of neupogen, a white cell growth factor. These shots make the body release stem cells out of the marrow and into the blood. Stem cells are collected from the donor's blood using intravenous (IV) lines.
- Donated umbilical cord blood stem cells. Cord blood banks throughout the world collect and store stem cells that have been removed from donated umbilical cords.
What is a blood or marrow transplant?
In blood or marrow transplant, the patient is given high-dose chemotherapy followed by the infusion of donated stem cells. In allogeneic transplant, total body irradiation (TBI) is sometimes given, in addition to the chemotherapy. The chemotherapy and TBI are called the transplant conditioning regimen. The conditioning regimen is given to control disease and prepare the body for transplant. It is followed by an infusion of stem cells.
In allogeneic transplant, the stem cells are collected from a family member, unrelated donor or donated umbilical cords. In autologous transplant, the stem cells are collected from the transplant patient.
The goal of the transplant process can be to control disease or it can be curative. The transplant patient's doctor will discuss the benefits of a transplant in the treatment of their specific disease.