For several years now, the Biomedicine Agency has been insisting on the need to recruit young men to rebalance the donor register. In 2022, the request is still relevant. Because, men represent only 36% of those registered knownr the National Register of Voluntary Bone Marrow Donors.
As a reminder, bone marrow ensures the production of hematopoietic stem cells (at the origin of blood cells): red blood cells which carry oxygen, white blood cells which fight against infections and platelets which stop bleeding. It is present throughout the skeleton, more particularly in flat bones such as the bones of the pelvis.
Who benefits from bone marrow donation?
Bone marrow donation can benefit children or adults with serious blood diseases (leukemia, aplastic anemia), but also metabolic or genetic diseases (immune deficiency, adrenoleukodystrophy, myelodysplasia, Fanconi anemia, etc.), which cause dysfunction of their bone marrow.
Who can donate bone marrow?
To become a bone marrow donor, three conditions must be met:
- be between 18 and 50 years old (although it is possible to make a donation up to 60 years old);
- be in perfect health;
- and agree to answer a health questionnaire and take a blood test.
Once the file has been validated, you must submit to a blood or saliva sample to establish his “biological identity card”. This makes it possible to check its compatibility with a patient.
In case of compatibility with a patient waiting for a transplant, the donor is contacted again within three months before the date of collection.
Note: a donor is contacted on average 8 years after registration. So the earlier he registers, the more likely he is to be able to help a patient.
“In addition to HLA compatibility, the age and sex of the donor are also important criteria in the choice made by transplant doctors in the interest of the patient”, indicates the Biomedicine Agency in a press release (source 1 ).
Why are men more often solicited?
In France, men are most often asked for bone marrow donation. And for good reason :
“The transplant doctors have found that a transplant made from a sample of bone marrow cells taken from a man allows easier management of the transplant for the patient. This difference is explained on the immunological level, by the absence, in men, of the antibodies naturally developed by women during each pregnancy. However, these antibodies complicate the good tolerance of the bone marrow graft after the transplant for the patient”, explains the Agency.
What does bone marrow harvesting involve?
Bone marrow donation is not as burdensome or painful as you might think. In 80% of cases, it is done by blood sample. This method, called cytapheresis, is preceded by taking a drug a few days before to stimulate the production of bone marrow cells and move them from the bones into the blood. The collection takes about 4 hours.
In 20% of cases, bone marrow removal is performed under general anesthesia, by puncture, in the iliac bones (at the level of the pelvis. The operation then requires hospital care (usually 48 hours).
Once collected, the bone marrow cells are transported to the patient and transfused within 12 to 36 hours.
Please note: after a donation, bone marrow cells replenish in 4-5 days.