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Bone Marrow Transplant

Bone Marrow Transplant

 Located in the interior of our bones, bone marrow is one of the areas that we are never concerned with until we have some complaint. However, this flexible, spongy and well-protected tissue is essential for our organism.

A vital component of the bone marrow are stem cells which are immature cells that are able to form a variety of different cells in our body (e.g.: neural cells). Stem cells are responsible for the production of the cellular elements of the blood: red blood cells (carry oxygen), platelets (ensure blood clotting) and lymphocytes (immune functions).

 What Are The Most Common Diseases?

  • Aplastic anemia (damaged bone marrow and dropped red blood cell production)
  • Leukemia (abnormal white cell production)
  • Bone marrow cancer

Moreover, cancer radiation and chemotherapy can also severely damage bone marrow. To avoid it, before radiation or chemotherapy treatment of cancer patients their stem cells are harvested from the bone marrow to protect them and after the treatment they are re-injected to restore immune functions.

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 Diagnosis

Examination of bone marrow tissue can happen by biopsy and bone marrow aspiration to gain information about the source of blood production. The procedure is rather unpleasant but unavoidable.

 Bone Marrow Transplant

Bone marrow transplantation can be the only solution to treat some severe diseases, such as:

  • bone marrow cancer
  • leukemia
  • multiple myeloma
  • certain blood diseases
  • autoimmune diseases

In the procedure stem cells are taken from a healthy donor and infused into the patient to help ideal blood cell production.

 Bone Marrow Transplant Procedure

We can distinguish three kinds of bone marrow transplants:

  • Autologous (the process of removing and reinjecting the patient’s own bone marrow before cancer treatment)
  • Umbilical cord blood transplant (stem cells are removed from the baby’s umbilical cord for later use)
  • Allogenic bone marrow transplant (from donor to patient)

In allogenic procedures, first the matching donor is identified by blood tests (usually family members with similar genes).

Patients‘ own bone marrow is suppressed by radiation and chemotherapy. It is important in order to remove malfunctioning stem cells and to suppress the immune system that will resist the transplanted cells less.

Stem cells are taken from a donor, who receives general anesthesia while the bone marrow is surgically removed from hip bones.

The stem cells are infused into the bloodstream with a catheter, similarly to a blood transfusion. The stem cells will find their way to the bone marrow.

Bone marrow transplant has many risks and usually involves a lengthy post-treatment.

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