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Who does the BBMR help?

Why do we need stem cell donors?

Bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue found in the centre of certain bones in your body. It is this bone marrow which produces blood stem cells. Stem cells can be viewed as the 'building blocks' of the body, and blood stem cells are able to mature into any of the other normal blood cells such as red cells; which carry oxygen, white cells; which fight infection, or platelets; which stop bleeding.

There are a number of diseases that may prevent a patient's bone marrow from working properly. These include leukaemia and aplastic anaemia, as well as other diseases of the immune system. Although chemotherapy will successfully treat some patients with these diseases, for many the only possibility of a cure is to have a stem cell transplant from a healthy donor. In about 30% of cases, a matched donor can be found from within the patient's family; for example from a brother or sister.

The remaining 70% of patients must rely on a matched volunteer donor, identified through The British Bone Marrow Registry (BBMR). There is a continued need to recruit more donors, particularly from within Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. This is important, as finding a suitable match whenever a stem cell transplant is needed is often difficult due to the lack of appropriate volunteers on the Registry.

Our register

The BBMR holds details of stem cell donors and cord blood donations from England, Scotland, North Wales and Northern Ireland. It is responsible for recruiting, testing and registering blood donors who volunteer to become stem cell donors. It is also part of an international network, performing searches around the world to find suitable stem cell donors.

The BBMR is a division of NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT). We work in co-operation with the UK’s other bone marrow and blood donor registries as well as Anthony Nolan; a charity dedicated to saving the lives of patients needing a stem cell transplant and the NHS Cord Blood Bank. Stem cell donations can also be made by donating cord blood at specialist hospitals within the NHS.

Stem cell registries

Bone Marrow Donor Worldwide links stem cell donor registries internationally using only tissue-typing to establish rapid identification of potential donors. You can be assured that your personal details are only available to the staff of the BBMR and are not available to international agencies.

Donors from ethnic communities

Some tissue types are more common in certain ethnic groups of the population, meaning that a patient is more likely to be matched with a donor from a similar ethnic background. This also increases the chances of a successful transplant. The UK population is made up of people from many different ethnic communities. This wide range of tissue types may help to find potential stem cell donors for new patients who need transplants, both here in the UK and overseas. You are especially needed as a stem cell donor if you are from an African, African-Caribbean, Asian, Chinese, Jewish, Eastern European or Mediterranean community.

How can I get more information?

If you have any further questions or general enquiries, please contact our donor enquiries team on 0300 123 23 23.