bone marrow

Bone marrow transplants can save lives

Patients with blood diseases like leukemia and lymphoma are likely candidates

Inside of your bones is a spongy and powerful tissue called “bone marrow.” Bone marrow is a powerhouse that makes blood progenitor cells.

A progenitor cell is a precursor cell that can develop into more specific cells, like red blood cells and white blood cells. Another name for progenitor cell is “stem cell” or “blood-forming cell.”

The process of producing different types of blood cells is called hematopoiesis. Bone marrow represents about four percent of our total weight and produces over 400 billion blood cells per day!

Blood cells are essential for life. Red blood cells deliver oxygen to all the cells and tissues of the body. Without oxygen, the biochemical processes of cells stop and the cells die.

White blood cells are involved in our immune response and ability to fight off infections and cancer. Plasma cells and platelets are other types of blood cells that stop bleeding in the event of injury.

Abnormal blood cell production can occur with blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. Blood cell production can also be adversely affected by diseases such as myeloma, plasmas cell disorders, or bone marrow production diseases. Even aggressive treatments for several cancers can cause bone marrow damage.

Bone marrow transplants can replace defective or damaged bone marrow with healthy blood stem cells. The cancerous or defective marrow cells are killed off with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. New, healthy blood-forming cells are injected into the patient’s bloodstream, find their way back to the bone marrow, and start producing normal, healthy blood cells.

The new healthy stem cells can come from the patient (known as an autologous transplant), or from someone who is a close match (donor), or from umbilical cord blood (this type of transplant is known as an allogeneic transplant). The source of the blood-forming cells and type of type transplant (autologous vs. allogeneic) will be determined by the hematologist (blood doctor) or oncologist (cancer specialist).

Thousands of patients who have had blood diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, plasma cell cancers, and bone marrow production disorders have had their lives saved with bone marrow transplants. The process of donating marrow can often be as simple as just giving blood.

For more information on blood cancer and diseases and to register as a potential donor, visit www.BeTheMatch.org and talk with your physician.

Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He received his M.D. and Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology and Genomics from the Mayo Clinic. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine. Dr. Crutchfield was recognized by Minnesota Medicine as one of the 100 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders in Minnesota. He is the team dermatologist for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Lynx. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of both the American and National Medical Associations.

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