What Is a Hematopoietic Cell Transplant?

Hematopoietic cell or bone marrow transplantation is a treatment for certain types of cancer, immune or hematologic diseases. For example, patients with leukemia, multiple myeloma, or some types of lymphoma may receive transplants.

Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue inside bones that makes blood cells. It contains cells called stem cells or “hematopoietic” cells, which can be converted into various other types of cells. They may become more bone marrow cells or they may turn into any other type of blood cell.

Bone marrow transplantation is a procedure that restores stem cells that were destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

There are three types of transplants:

  • In autologous transplants, patients receive their own stem cells.
  • In syngeneic transplants, patients receive stem cells from their identical twins.
  • In allogeneic transplants, patients receive stem cells from a brother, sister, or parent. A person who is not related to the patient (an unrelated donor) can donate stem cells as well.

Some types of cancer and other diseases prevent hematopoietic cells from developing normally. If stem cells are abnormal, they won’t be able to produce any blood cells. A cell transplant provides and produces new, healthy cells.

For patients diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, and other life-threatening diseases, a hematopoietic cell (bone marrow) transplant may be their best treatment option.

In order to minimize possible side effects, it is most common to transplant stem cells that are highly compatible with a patient’s cells. Each person has a different set of proteins, called human leukocyte-associated (HLA) antigens, on the surface of cells. This set of proteins is identified by a special blood test.

In most cases, the greater the compatibility between the HLA antigens in the donor’s stem cells and the patient’s stem cell antigens, the more successful the allogeneic transplant. The greater the number of HLA-compatible antigens, the greater the likelihood that the patient’s body will accept the donor’s stem cells. Patients are generally less likely to suffer the complication known as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) if there is a close match between donor’s stem cells and the patient’s stem cells.

However, 70% of patients who need a transplant do not have a fully matched HLA donor in their family. They depend on the National Bone Marrow Donor Program / Be The Match ® for their opportunity to heal.

Contact our ABC Transplant Center for more information: 5230-8081

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