Stem Cell Donation
Sometimes people who need a stem cell transplant can use their own cells. But other times, they need a donor, whether it’s a relative or stranger.
Two out of three people who require a transplant don’t have a family member who’s a match. They need a stem cell donation from someone else — maybe someone like you.
Stem cell donation at Henry Ford
It’s rewarding to donate stem cells and support someone fighting a life-threatening disease. But it’s also a serious commitment. Our team helps you decide if donating stem cells is right for you.
Henry Ford features Michigan’s largest stem cell transplant patient unit, so you’ll partner with an experienced team. Our donation team works with you throughout the process, and transplant coordinators are here to answer your questions.
Am I eligible to donate stem cells?
We want you and your recipient to have the best possible experience with stem cell donation and transplant. Our team reviews your medical history and other requirements to confirm that you can donate stem cells.
Requirements for stem cell donation
To donate stem cells to a family member or stranger, you should be:
- Between the ages of 18 and 44 (donors up to age 60 may be considered, but transplants from younger donors are more successful)
- A compatible human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type with the recipient
- In excellent medical and psychological health
Exclusions for stem cell donation
You cannot donate stem cells if you have:
- Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, Crohn’s disease or psoriasis
- Certain infectious diseases, such as hepatitis or HIV
- Certain mental health conditions
- Chronic back, neck or hip problems
- Insulin-dependent (Type 1) diabetes
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Severe arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis
- Severe breathing problems, including asthma, sleep apnea or emphysema
- Substance use disorder (alcohol or drugs)
Medical tests for stem cell donation
You must complete a series of medical tests before you can donate stem cells:
- Physical examination, including review of past medical history
- Blood and human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing
- Blood screens for transmittable viruses, such as hepatitis and HIV
- Chest X-rays
- Heart tests, such as electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Mental health assessment
How do I register to donate stem cells?
Signing up to become a potential stem cell donor is quick and easy. If you’re interested in donating to someone in the United States you may not know, you should:
- Request a free registration kit from the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP).
- Follow the directions in the kit to take a swab of your cheek cells. Return the sample in the postage-paid envelope. This sample is used to determine your human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type and potentially match you with someone in need.
- Know that the NMDP estimates that one out of every 430 registry members are contacted to donate.
Ways to donate stem cells
Doctors can collect stem cells from several different sources:
- Blood: Bone marrow releases a small amount of peripheral blood stem cells (PBSCs) into your bloodstream. Medication increases the production of PBSCs, ensuring that there are enough to collect and use in a transplant. Learn more about donating peripheral blood stem cells.
- Bone marrow: This sponge-like tissue makes stem cells and is found in the center of many bones. Your hipbones contain the greatest amount of bone marrow and stem cells. Learn more about donating bone marrow.
- Umbilical cord blood: Umbilical cord blood collected during childbirth contains small amounts of stem cells. Our doctors combine umbilical cord blood from two different donors to get enough stem cells for one adult transplant. Learn more about donating cord blood.
Resources for stem cell donors
We want you to feel confident in your decision to donate stem cells. Henry Ford and the National Marrow Donor Program have experts to help you decide if being a stem cell donor is right for you.
- Financial specialists: You should not have to pay medical expenses related to donating stem cells. Our financial specialists assess the transplant recipient’s health insurance to determine coverage. If needed, the recipient may apply for grants to cover any of your unpaid medical expenses.
- National Marrow Donor Program: This nonprofit organization provides financial assistance to cover your travel costs and other incidental expenses related to the donation process. Learn more about the National Marrow Donor Program.
- Guest Services: Our Guest Services staff can help you and your loved ones with travel arrangements and lodging. Learn more about these resources.