Down to the Bone: The Need for API Bone Marrow Donors

Posted: December 30, 2014 at 10:43 am

Anyone can be a bone marrow donor, but when it comes to finding a match, race can be everything. There are certain genetic markers that doctors will look for when searching for a match -- and if a match is made, a transplant can then be scheduled. If someone is in need of a transplant, the process can be daunting, especially if there is only a small pool of donors that share a similar ethnicity.

There are many bone marrow donor services throughout the country, but the Asian American Donor Program (AADP) is a champion nonprofit dedicated to increasing the availability of potential stem cells donors for patients with life threatening diseases curable by a stem cell transplant. Based in Alameda, CA, AADP holds donor registration drives and outreach events to Asian, Pacific Islander, and mixed race communities in the Bay Area.

Stem cells are found inside bone marrow, and those cells can turn into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. AADP explains that red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body; white blood cells help fight infections; and platelets help control bleeding. Diseases like leukemia, sickle cell anemia, blood cancers, and many other immune diseases can be treated with a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. This soft tissue is incredibly important to our health.

To learn more about why bone marrow donation is important, and why it is particularly important in Asian Pacific American and mixed race communities, I reached out to Ruby Law, AADP's Recruitment Director.

Hyphen: When does one need a bone marrow donation, and what does it do?

Ruby Law: Disease can affect the marrows 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. Every year, 12,000 patients with blood diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell and other life-threatening diseases need a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant.

Hyphen: Why is bone marrow donation important for Asian Pacific American and mixed-Asian Pacific Americans communities to address in discussions about health?

RL: A patient needs a matching donor for a successful transplant. The closer the match, the better for the patient. Patients are more likely to match someone from their own race or ethnicity. For example a Chinese patient will most likely need a Chinese donor, while a Japanese patient will most likely need a Japanese donor. Out of 10 million registrants in the United States, only 7% of the registrants are Asian and only 4% are of mixed race. Most Asian or Mixed Asian patients cannot find any matching donor in the registry because there are not enough Asian, mixed Asian and minority donors.

Ruby Law, Asian American Donor Program (AADP) Recruitment Director

See the original post here:
Down to the Bone: The Need for API Bone Marrow Donors

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