How does bone marrow transplant work?

What is Bone Marrow Transplant?

When a healthy bone marrow is damaged by a disease, any kind of infection or chemotherapy, then a bone marrow transplant process has to happen. It is a medical treatment in which diseased/damaged bone marrow is replaced by a healthy one. It is also known as blood or marrow transplant (BMT).

What is bone marrow?

A bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue inside your bones such as thighs and hips. It contains stem cells that are further developed into three kinds of blood cells:

  • Red blood cells – to carry oxygen throughout your body,
  • White blood cells – to fight infections and germs,
  • Platelets – to help in blood clotting.

Stem cells are also found in the blood and umbilical cord – a tube that connects the developing fetus to the mother’s placenta.

Why is it done? Which diseases are treated by BMT?

Doctors perform stem cells transplant to treat people suffering from:

  • Cancers such as leukemia. While treating patients suffering from certain cancers with a heavy dose of chemotherapy or radiation, then chances are high that such soft tissues are severely damaged or destroyed. A healthy medical procedure needs to be performed to treat the damaged tissues.
  • Certain blood diseases like thalassemias, sickle cell anemia, leukemia, lymphoma. When your body becomes unable to make enough red blood cells.
  • When immune-deficiency diseases work as a hindrance from making white blood cells and your body loses ability to fight infections and diseases.

Type of BMT:

The two main types of transplants are:

  • Autologous Transplant: In this process, when a doctor collects blood-forming cells from your own body. It is still the best way when you’re sick and still have enough healthy cells.
  • Allogeneic Transplant: When you have to borrow stem cells from a donor. The donor can be a relative, friend or any well-wisher with a condition that the donor’s stem cells should be closely matched. You can also have stem cells from the umbilical cord blood of any person.
  • Haploidentical transplant: A type of allogeneic transplant. In this process, blood-forming cells are borrowed from your half-matched donor i.e. family member. For such a healthy process, your doctor performs a blood test to discover your human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type.

How does it work?

When you’re infected with diseased tissues, then the new cells are inserted into your bloodstream via an intravenous (IV) line or tube. This process is quite similar to infusing blood or medicine into your body through an IV process. Thereafter, these cells automatically find their way into your marrow to grow and multiple healthy red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

How are stem cells collected?

Stem cells used are collected in multiple ways. Apheresis is one of the medical processes that is used to collect stem cells. This process withdraws blood from a donor’s body and is passed through an apparatus that filters out the needy stem cells from the blood. Then, the remaining blood is re-transfused into the donor’s body.
Stems cells are collected from a donor’s pelvis using general anesthesia. A hollow needle is repeatedly used into the pelvis, to suck the marrow out of the bone.
They can also be collected from the umbilical cord post delivery. Then, these cells are stored in a blood bank for future purpose.


Though a stem cell transplant is a lengthy and risky process. Somehow, it is the best and only cure to lead a healthy life.

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