What happens if I am a perfect match?
The medical procedure for obtaining stem cells from the blood is called a harvest. If you were asked to donate, you would be required to attend a specialist harvest centre in South Africa. A full medical examination will be carried out and if you are still agreeable, growth factor (G-CSF)* injections will be administered. These will increase the production of the stem cells in the bone marrow. These excess stem cells enter the bloodstream from where they are harvested using a cell separator machine. This minor medical procedure with minimal discomfort entails you being connected to the machine by an intravenous line (similar to donating blood or platelets) for 4 – 6 hours, possibly on two consecutive days. The precious bone marrow stem cells are filtered out of your blood and your own blood then returned to you. Thus you are able to go home immediately afterwards.
The harvest will take place in a private ward and the donor is often admitted for the night preceding the harvest as this has proved to be most comfortable and convenient, particularly if the donor is from out of town.
*Granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF). This is a protein which also occurs naturally in the body. It is given in order to mobilize the stem cells out of the bone marrow and into the circulating blood, where they can be collected for transplant. All individuals are at risk for developing cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma or other blood diseases throughout their life time. G-CSF stimulates normal cell growth. In some patients with cancer or abnormal blood cells, it has been shown to stimulate leukemic blood cells. It is unknown whether G-CSF increases or decreases an individual’s risk of developing cancer. Based on available data from healthy people who have received G-CSF, no long-term risks have been found so far. The data being collected during follow-up of donors worldwide will help establish if there are any or long-term effects from receiving G-CSF. Approved: SABMR Board - 23 November 2007.
Are there any side effects for the donor?
Sibling transplants have been taking place for over 10 years; a short term side effect is flu-like symptoms during G-CSF stimulation; some donors have also reported mild bone pain.