As a patient who needs a bone marrow transplant, your best chance of finding a successful match is to join the bone marrow registry. There are more than 21 million bone marrow donors registered worldwide and around 10 million of them are in the United States alone. Joining the registry increases your odds of finding a compatible donor who can donate stem cells that will help you fight off diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, and sickle cell anemia.
The most important factor when looking for a bone marrow match is tissue type. How do you find a bone marrow match? The patient’s tissue type must match the donor’s tissue type for a successful transplant to take place. To find someone with the right tissue type, you need to join the bone marrow registry.
Of course, medical professionals will first recommend exploring friends and family members for a bone marrow match. In some cases, it is possible to find a fit within your own family. In other cases, the only way to find a match is with a bone marrow registry. If no one in your family is a match, then the registry can help you expand your search to millions of potential donors. Joining the registry is easy, requiring just a few simple steps.
What is Tissue Typing?
Tissue typing is the first step in finding a suitable match for a bone marrow transplant. It involves testing both the patient and potential donor to determine if their cells are compatible. This process is also known as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) testing and typically involves taking a small sample of blood or a swab of cells from the inside of the cheek.
The test looks for certain markers in your white blood cells that indicate your tissue type. It’s important to have a good match because if there isn’t one, the body’s immune system may reject the donation.
How does HLA work? HLA is a type of protein found on the surface of white blood cells. Everyone’s tissue type is different and based on combinations of these HLA markers. When looking for a match on the bone marrow registry, doctors look for someone who has similar tissue types.
The most successful matches come from siblings, or from someone who shares your ethnic background. If a match isn’t found in your family, the registry will search for compatible donors from around the world. With the right registry, you’ll have access to hundreds of thousands or even millions of prospective donors.
How to Increase Your Chances of Finding a Match
To increase the chances of finding a compatible donor on the registry, there are several steps you can take.
- List yourself in multiple registries. Each registry has its own pool of potential donors, so registering with more than one can increase your chances of finding a match.
- Consider participating in an international registry. By expanding your search to a larger pool of potential donors, you may be able to find a match that isn’t available in your local registry.
- Encourage family and friends to join the registry. Asking your family and friends to join as well can help increase the number of potential matches, making it more likely that you will find a compatible donor.
- Reach out to community organizations. Community organizations can help spread awareness about the need for bone marrow donors and provide resources and support to those in need.
- Utilize social media. Ask your friends and family to share posts on their social media accounts, which can help raise awareness and encourage more people to join the registry.