How to become a stem cell donor?

Unlike most organ donors (for example kidney donors) the donors for a stem cell transplantation are always living individuals, like blood donors.

If a brother or sister of a patient has the same tissue type, this would be the preferred donor. Other family members may be suitable donors too. Very often no related donor is available, and an unrelated donor search is initiated.

Each country has one or more national stem cell donor registries. When an unrelated donor search for a patient is initiated, the national registry/registries will be searched, but in many cases other registries as well. However, the search should be a world-wide search, because for many patients a donor cannot be found in their country, and secondly the transplant centre should search world-wide for the best possible donor.

Stem cell donors are submitted to the national registries by regional donor centres. These in turn collaborate with tissue typing laboratories, that provide the HLA characteristics, the primary matching criterion for a donor and a patient. For this purpose a blood test of the prospective stem cell donor will take place. The registries that participate in BMDW periodically provide data of their donors to BMDW, and BMDW makes these data available to all centres that have been authorized to access the BMDW database.

If you want to become a stem cell donor, you should turn to a donor centre near you. If you are a blood donor you could contact your blood bank and ask for information. Of course you can always contact the national registry and ask for the address of the nearest donor centre. Please note that, in general, prospective donors should be in good health and between 18 and 56 or 60 years of age (depending on the regulation in a country).

The addresses of the national registries can be found on the BMDW web pages ("Participating registries").

BMDW - Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide * Plesmanlaan 1b * 2333 BZ Leiden * The Netherlands