Bone Marrow Transplant

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Bone Marrow Transplant

A bone marrow or cord blood transplant is a process to replace unhealthy bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. Bone marrow transplants can be used to treat patients with:

  • life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia
  • diseases which result in bone marrow failure like aplastic anemia
  • other immune system or genetic diseases

Research on transplant has led to improved survival rates over time, which has led to more patients being helped by this treatment.For many diseases, bone marrow transplant is the only cure at this time.

The role of bone marrow
Marrow is the soft tissue inside bones that produces blood-forming cells. Blood-forming cells are immature cells that can grow into red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets.

  • Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body
  • White blood cells help fight infections
  • Platelets help control bleeding

What is a bone marrow transplant

 Healthy marrow and blood cells are needed to live. Disease can affect the marrow’s ability to function. When this happens a bone marrow or cord blood transplant could be the best treatment option. For some diseases, transplant offers the only potential cure.

A bone marrow or cord blood transplant replaces unhealthy blood-forming cells with healthy ones. Blood-forming cells are also called blood stem cells. Blood stem cells are immature cells that can grow into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. 

There are two types of transplant. An autologous transplant uses your own cells which are collected from the bloodstream and stored for your transplant. An allogeneic transplant uses cells from a family member, unrelated donor or umbilical cord blood unit. 
There are three sources of blood-forming cells used in transplants:

  • bone marrow
  • peripheral (circulating) blood (also called peripheral blood stem cell or PBSC)
  • umbilical cord blood collected after a baby is born

How a transplant works
An autologous transplant is a way to treat cancer using very high doses of chemotherapy that destroy the bone marrow as a side effect. The autologous blood cells replace the damaged marrow. This is how autologous transplants are used to fight certain types of cancers such as lymphoma.  
An allogeneic transplant also treats cancers of the blood, and offers the added benefit of using the donor’s immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Allogeneic transplant is also used to treat some non-cancerous diseases such as sickle cell anemia. In non-cancerous diseases, the transplant replaces defective marrow cells with the donor’s healthy cells.