Stem Cells Donation and Medical Concerns

What It’s Like to be a Stem Cell Donor

Stem cell donor Billy Cheung, who donated his stem cells through his bone marrow in 2004 tells us how easy it is to donate stem cells nowadays. For more information about Billy, please visit his Donor Profile.

Myth: Stem cell donation is painful.

Fact: Approximately 80% of stem cell donations come from peripheral blood. This method is similar to donating blood and it is done in an outpatient clinic. Blood is extracted through a needle and is passed through a machine that collects the stem cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor’s body through the other arm. 20% of stem cell donations come from the bone marrow of the pelvic bone. This procedure is done under general anesthesia. The donor does not experience pain during either procedure.

80% of Donors will donate through the
Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) Donation Method

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Note: The patient’s doctor will decide which type of donation is best for the patient.

Myths: Stem cells are taken from the spinal cord.

Fact: During bone marrow donations, stem cells are collected from the iliac crest of the pelvic bone so the donor’s spinal cord is unaffected.

Myth: If I donate stem cells, they cannot be replaced.

Fact:The body replaces the stem cells within six weeks. After donating, most donors are back to their usual routine in a few days.

Myth: Stem cell donation involves a lengthy recovery process.

Fact: Bone marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back. Donors have likened it to the same soreness one gets if he/she were to slip and fall on ice. There have also been reports of donors feeling tired and having some discomfort walking for a couple of days or longer. Most donors are back to their usual routine in a few days. Some may take a few weeks before they feel completely recovered. Peripheral blood stem cell donors report varying symptoms including headache, bone or muscle pain, nausea, insomnia and fatigue but these effects disappear shortly after donating.

Myth: Stem cell transplants can only treat leukemia.

Fact: A wide variety of diseases and disorders are treated with stem cell transplants, including blood-related diseases, such as leukemia and aplastic anemia, as well as immune system and metabolic disorders.

Myth: It is controversial to donate stem cells.

Fact: Patients who are in need of stem cell transplants specifically require hematopoietic stem cells which are immature blood cells. Unlike embryonic stem cells, hematopoietic stem cells have a limited potency as they can only differentiate into cells that belong to the circulatory system.