How does bone marrow donation work?

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How do you get tested?

First, register online to be a donor.  For most countries, after signing up online,  you’ll be sent a free screening kit in the post.

Demo video of Ally’s dad doing a screening test.

So how does bone marrow donation actually work?

The main method of donating is Peripheral Blood Stem Cell donation (PBSC).  In the UK, this is done 90% of the time, and is safe and easy.

  1. You are given a small jab/injection of granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) for 4 days.  This causes your body to temporarily produce extra stem cells.
  2. On day 5, you go to a clinic where you are connected to a special machine.  It draws blood out of one arm, which passes through the machine, and back into your other arm.  This process is called aphaeresis.
  3. As the blood passes through the machine, stem cells are filtered and collected.  The process takes about 4-5 hours.

Like any procedure, there are possible side effects (fatigue, headaches, muscle/joint pain, etc), as well as some less common side effects (dizziness, chest pain, night sweats, etc).

What are the chances you actually donate?

About 1 out of every 430 people screened go on to donate bone marrow to a patient in need. Even if you don’t help Ally, there is a good chance that you could help save another person’s life!

Do you know anyone who has done this or can talk about their experience?

Ally’s Dad went through the aphaeresis procedure once (he was almost a donor).  He thought it was easy and straightforward.  The hardest part was being bored whilst connected to the machine for 5hrs!  He would be happy to answer any questions about his experience, just leave a comment or click on Contact Us!

10 thoughts on “How does bone marrow donation work?

    • Dear Jeff, Ally is most likely to match with another Korean or E.Asian, but there are over 14,000 people worldwide that are still looking for their match. It would be great if you were still able to register and potentially help save someones life! Best wishes!!


  • Hi,
    Would I have to travel to Oxford to help?
    Also I am a breastfeeding mum. Can I still be able to do the procedure ?



    • Dear Christine, you can order a free screening kit to your home, the test takes just a couple minutes.

      Afterwards, they put you in the registry and notify you if there is a patient match. I have read that for every ~450 people screened, 1 of them does go on to donate, so the more ppl screened, the more chances for people like Ally!

      For actual donation, usually it’s a special blood donation, you can read more about it on our site. I’m not sure if you could do that whilst breastfeeding but your GP would be able to advise at that time. Many thanks!!!!!


    • Dear Darlene, yes! The US registry is connected to the international database. We also have a lot of activity going on with US based drives. You can sign up for a FREE US kit at:

      Be the Match is the US national bone marrow organisation =) Thank you!!!


  • Can half-Japanese people help? I would love to but it looks like I’m too young, but I would love to know more about if half-Asians can help!


    • Dear Maya, thank you for your generosity~ In the UK, you must be at least 16, and in the US you can register at 17 (through DKMS) but are not allowed to donate until you are 18. Half-Japanese is less likely to match for Ally, but your marrow is very important for other half-Asians who are in need. When you can, I encourage you to register! Best wishes~


  • hello, how do you order a screening kit? I’m a Chinese from Singapore. Would love to help. May God bless you!


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