Donating Bone Marrow

31 July 2019



What is bone marrow and why you should donate it?

Bone marrow is a semi-liquid tissue found on the inside of the bones in our bodies. Especially in flat bones. This tissue contains Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs). Bone marrow transplants or Hematopoietic Stem Cells transplants enable the treatment of many illnesses of bone marrow, blood or immune system – that otherwise couldn’t be treated such as leukemia, myelomas, thalassaemia, congenital disorders in children and, in some particular cases, autoimmune diseases and sold tumors.

Why many donors are needed?

For a bone marrow or Hematopoietic Stem Cells transplant to be successful it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to have a donor compatible with the patient. A genetic compatibility is EXTREMELY RARE: only in 1 of 4 cases (25%) siblings are found compatible; parents and children our uncles/aunts and cousins of the patient are never compatible and only 1 in 100.000 (0,001%) individuals with no blood ties are found compatible.


Who can apply to become a donor of HSCs?

Everyone who is between 18 and 35 years old and is in good health.

How can Hematopoietic Stem Cells be donated?

  • by giving bone marrow (done in general anaesthesia)
  • by giving periphery blood (blood drawn from arm)


NOTE: Women during delivery can choose to donate the blood from the umbilical cord, which would normally be discarded, but is extremely rich in HSCs. The umbilical cord donated as a gesture of solidarity is frozen and held in a cord bank, so that it is available to patients who may need it.

If I consumed cannabinoids or alcohol the night before, can I still have my samples taken to become a donor?

Consuming light drugs for medical purposes (cannabinoids or similar), as well as a moderate consumption of alcohol are not an impediment to bone marrow donation (and by extension to registering as a donor) according to the Italian Law.

On the other hand, consuming heavy drugs is an impediment and the entry into the donor registry must be evaluated attentively on a case-by-case basis.

I’m expecting. Can I donate?

In compliance with the law, during pregnancy and at least in the following 6 months – or as long as a mother is breastfeeding she is temporarily suspended from the Donor Registry.