How you prepare

If you want to donate stem cells, talk to your health care provider or contact the National Marrow Donor Program. This is a federally funded nonprofit organization that keeps a database of people willing to donate.

If you decide to donate, you'll learn about the process and possible risks of donating. If you want to continue with the process, a blood or tissue sample can be used to help match you to someone who needs a stem cell transplant. You'll also be asked to sign a consent form, but you can change your mind at any time.

Next comes testing for human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing. HLAs are proteins found in most cells in your body. This test helps match donors and recipients. A close match increases the chances that the transplant will be a success.

Donors who are matched with someone who needs a blood stem cell transplant are then tested to make sure they don't have genetic or infectious diseases. The testing helps ensure that the donation will be safe for the donor and recipient.

Cells from younger donors have the best chance of success when transplanted. Health care providers prefer donors to be ages 18 to 35. Age 40 is the upper limit for joining the National Marrow Donor Program.

The costs related to collecting stem cells for donation are charged to people needing transplants or their health insurance companies.

May 25, 2022
  1. Stem cell transplant for cancer. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/stem-cell-transplant.html. Accessed March 10, 2022.
  2. Blood-forming stem cell transplants. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/stem-cell-transplant/stem-cell-fact-sheet. Accessed March 10, 2022.
  3. Medical guidelines: Who can join. National Marrow Donor Program. https://bethematch.org/support-the-cause/donate-bone-marrow/join-the-marrow-registry/medical-guidelines/. Accessed March 19, 2022.
  4. FAQs about joining. National Marrow Donor Program. https://bethematch.org/support-the-cause/donate-bone-marrow/join-the-marrow-registry/faqs-about-joining/. Accessed March 19, 2022.
  5. Negrin RS. Sources of hematopoietic stem cells. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 10, 2022.
  6. You're a match: A donor's guide to donation. National Marrow Donor Program. https://bethematch.org/support-the-cause/donate-bone-marrow/donation-process/before-you-donate/. Accessed March 19, 2022.
  7. AskMayoExpert. Hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Mayo Clinic; 2020.

Blood and bone marrow stem cell donation