There are three ways to harvest blood stem cells for transplantation:
- Obtaining blood stem cells from blood
> Donation from blood
- Harvesting from bone marrow
> Bone marrow donation
- Obtaining blood stem cells from cord blood
> Donation of cord blood
All three procedures have advantages and disadvantages. Withdrawal of a donation, as well as cancellation from the register, is possible at any time. This applies to you as a requested donor and also applies to your willingness to donate. Registration therefore is not a binding decision, but rather a strong commitment to help severely ill individuals!
If the rare case occurs that your tissue markers match those of a patient, you will be asked to undergo in-depth tissue compatibility testing. At this time, the usual testing for transmissible diseases, for example, hepatitis B and C, syphilis, HIV, is done.
If in the end you are chosen as a suitable donor, the medical personnel will discuss with you whether a bone marrow donation or a peripheral donation is acceptable to you. The final decision lies with you as the donor!
With cord blood donation, blood stem cells can be obtained from the placenta and the umbilical cord only with the expressed consent of the parents.
Donation of blood
The donation of peripheral blood stem cells is usually done outpatient. About four to five days before harvesting, the donor receives growth factors through injections in order for the blood stem cells to multiply in the bone marrow and then disperse into the peripheral blood.
The subsequent collection procedure happens in one of the collection centers in Basel, Geneva or Zurich. Similar to the apheresis donation in the blood transfusion service, blood is taken from the donor through a venous catheter that leads to a cell separator. There the blood stem cells, enriched by growth factors, are separated from the blood and collected. The remaining blood flows through a different venous catheter back into the body.
The collection generally takes 3 to 6 hours. Afterward you can leave the center unless there is a complication found in the medical post-examination. Most donors of peripheral blood stem cells feel fine shortly after the procedure and are quickly free of discomfort.
Every person that has donated blood stem cells has the right to medical follow up care - lifelong.
Possible side effects of peripheral blood stem cell donation
During treatment with growth factors, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and joint pain, can occur. These symptoms, however, disappear as soon as the medication is discontinued, and can be alleviated with simple flu-medicine (acetaminophen). A possible side effect of apheresis that can occur is a hematoma at the puncture site. You will be informed in time about any other possible side effects and risks.
Bone marrow donation
With bone marrow donation, the bone marrow is obtained from the iliac crest through multiple punctures made with a syringe. The harvesting is done under full anethesia, is performed by a medical team of specialists and generally lasts between 2 and 3 hours.
The harvesting of blood stem cells through this procedure is more efficient, meaning for each harvest more blood stem cells can be obtained than with a peripheral donation. However, it requires an in-patient hospital stay and is also somewhat painful.
The day before the scheduled bone marrow donation, the donor enters the collection center in Basel, Geneva or Zurich. Normally, the donor can leave the hospital the next day unless a complication is found in the medical post-examination.
A few days rest after the donation is advised. Don't plan any strenuous physical activity in the first few days after the donation.
Every person that donates blood stem cells has the right to medical follow-up care - lifelong.
Possible side effects of bone marrow donation
After the harvesting, it is possible that you could have an uncomfortable hematoma (bruise) in the iliac crest area, and for a couple of days you might experience pain when sitting or during physical activity. This pain only lasts a couple of days and can be alleviated with pain medicine. An initial fatigue can also last a few days. You will be informed in time about any other possible side effects and risks.
Cord blood donation
After the birth of a baby and transection of the umbilical cord, if the parents give express consent, blood stem cells can be obtained from the placenta and umbilical cord and to be frozen and preserved in a cord bank.
The migration of stem cells from the liver to bone marrow, which begins shortly before birth, is the reason that up to the point of birth a great amount of these cells is found in the cord blood. Blood stem cells can also be obtained here, thanks to a complex and costly procedure.
For further information, please contact the appropriate hospitals and institutions directly.
Application form to obtain blood stem cells
- Open-anonymous — The donation is at anyone's disposal;
the recipient remains anonymous.
- Familial-directed — The donation is specifically for an ill family member.
- Private banking — A service for private banking of cord blood with costs, where the donation is only for your child. The SBSC is not involved in this area.
If cord blood is requested for a transplant, it is possible to search for a compatible cord blood unit in the public national and international cord blood banks, like with registered donors.
Advantages & disadvantages of cord blood donation
We recommend every pregnant woman familiarizes herself with the subject of cord blood donation. There is no disadvantage whatsoever for the donor family. Make an example of yourself!
The harvesting is pain and risk free for mother and child. There is absolutely no medical intervention of the body necessary. The umbilical cord and placenta are generally discarded after a birth, even though this valuable material for the treatment of ill people could be collected.
The number of potential donors in this donor group is theoretically unlimited; every birthing mother can donate when - similar to the blood stem cell donation - certain criteria are met. In particular, this enables people with rare tissue types to be provided for.
Rejection of the transplant happens less often with cord blood because the blood stem cells are less mature and therefore less apt to trigger a defense reaction.
Because the amount of fetal blood, and thus the number of blood stem cells, in the placenta and cord blood is limited, usually only children can benefit from this type of donation and receive a transplantation with a matching cord. This is only rarely possible for adults, and only under special circumstances.
Further information can be found directly through the appropriate hospitals and institutions.
For further information about the options for open-anonymous blood stem cell donation from cord blood and the placenta, contact your gynecologist or one of the following gynecological hospitals, a good amount of time before giving birth.
University Hospital Basel: Gynecological Clinic
Tel. 061 328 66 90
Cantonal Hospital Liestal
Tel. 061 925 22 00
Tel. 031 632 11 25
Servizio trasfusionale della Svizzera Italiana
Servizio trasfusionale della Svizzera Italiana
Via Tesserete 50
Tel. 091 960 26 00
Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève
Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève
24, rue Micheli-du-Crest
1211 Genève 14
Tél. 022 372 98 59
Sage-femmes de la maternité de Genève:
Tél. 022 382 68 16
(bip: 6859 447)
The Swiss Blood Stem Cells supports public-anonymous and family donations, which benefit the public or an already ill family member.
With public-anonymous (public banking) donation of cord blood, the collected blood stem cells are frozen in non-profit cord blood banks and are available worldwide for all patients who might have the need.
This type of donation is considered when a family member of a pregnant woman, usually a child or parent, suffers from a disease which can be treated through transplantation of blood stem cells.
As with "normal" blood stem cell donations from adults, the chance of a tissue match between the donor and recipient within the same family is relatively high (about 25%).
In recent years commercial businesses have started offering storage of cord blood of a child. This service must be paid for. The idea behind this "private" storage of cord blood is to help the same child later should he or she become ill. The Swiss Foundation Blood Stem Cells does not participate in this field.
Role of the foundation with cord blood
Since 1988 the Swiss Blood Stem Cells has been involved with unrelated adult blood stem cell donation. Since some years it also supports the building of cord blood banks and the open-anonymous donation of cord blood.
More than 2200 registered cord blood units (as of September 2009) are stored in the two public cord blood banks in Basel and Geneva. There is a great willingness of pregnant women to donate placenta and umbilical cord after giving birth. Further growth is however limited due to financial reasons: Treating, typing and storage cost around 2,500 Swiss francs per unit.
For this reason the Swiss Blood Stem Cells decided in 2005 to support the growth of the public cord blood banks in the coming years. It finances the largest part of the running costs, between 500,000 and 900,000 francs per year.
Here you can support the Foundation directly, and with a voluntary monetary contribution you can support the work involved with and the treatment of blood stem cells from the cord and placenta. Donate now online or order payment slips. Every donation counts!