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Have you heard of stem cell donation? In the media, there are a lot of reports about seriously ill people who are saved by stem-cell therapy or who are urgently looking for a donor.
In 2017 we launched the '31 million chances campaign ’. 31 million chances represented the number of donors registered in the international stem cell bank. Today sick patients have a staggering 38 million chances to survive. 38 million chances is an awful lot.
The Belgian Bone Marrow Donor Registry manages a database that stores the tissue types of people who are willing to donate stem cells. The registry also works very closely with foreign registries to give patients a better chance of finding a suitable donor. As such, we have access to stem cells from all over the world, significantly increasing the chance of finding a match. We can help 9 out of 10 patients of Western European origin.
Unfortunately, not everyone has that many chances of finding a compatible donor. Specifically, there are very few donors of North African, Central African, Turkish or mixed origin, meaning that we are unable to help 1 in 3 patients with these backgrounds.
Finding a donor is not as hard as many people think. There is little point searching for a stem cell donor via an urgent appeal (for example, through social media). The chances of finding a suitable donor are much higher via one of the following three steps:
It may surprise you but the first eligible donor is the patient him or her self. A patient's own stem cells can be harvested and frozen at a time when the illness has reduced sufficiently, so that they can be given back to the patient after intense chemotherapy, for example.
When your own stem cells are no longer usable, doctors check whether stem cells from an immediate family member (such as a brother, sister, mother, father, daughter, son, aunt, or uncle) can be used. The chance of finding a match with immediate family members is very high.
If there is no match with the stem cells from your immediate family, or you have no immediate family anymore, then we look for a suitable donor from among the Belgians who have volunteered as a stem cell donor. If we do not find a match in Belgium, then there are stem cell donors from all over the world ready to help you, giving you about 31 million chances of finding a suitable donor.
We are mainly still looking for young men of foreign origin or with a mixed background.
During pregnancy, women develop antibodies against their partner (and therefore also against recipients of their stem cells.
Men between 18 and 40 are the most suitable donors.