Bone Marrow Transplant
A bone marrow transplant (also known as stem cell therapy) is a medical procedure that helps replace the bone marrow that was destroyed by chemotherapy. This procedure aims to give new life to the damaged bone marrow of the patient.
For those of you who do not know, the bone marrow- a soft sponge-like tissue that is found inside your bones, is actually responsible for the creation of the blood. In the blood, it contains red and white blood cells and it also has platelets that help with blood-clotting.
A bone marrow transplant is given to a person who has suffered from a blood-related disease like Cancer and Multiple Myeloma. Although it can purportedly cure other types of cancer, it still needs more research to validate those claims.
Anyway, before a patient receives a bone marrow transplant, they have to undergo a series of chemotherapy sessions. There are actually two types of chemotherapies and they are:
Ablative (Myeloablative) Treatment- This is the “normal” chemotherapy. A person is given a high-dose of cancer-killing drugs to ensure that every last cancer cell is destroyed.
Reduced Intensity Treatment (Mini-Transplant)- This is reserved for older people or for patients with a sensitive body. As the name implies, the patient receives a lower intensity or a low dose of cancer-killing drugs that also tries to kill the cancer cells.
Also known as the Conditioning Phase, chemotherapies are needed to prepare the body for a stem cell transplant.
You see, chemotherapy involves the use of very strong medication; it is so strong that it even kills the healthy cells in the body as well.
A bone marrow transplant is needed so that it helps restore the normal functioning of the bone marrow so that it can produce the blood cells again.
Three Kinds of Bone Marrow Transplants
Autologous Transplant- Auto in Greek means ‘self’. Therefore, this procedure is where the person’s own bone marrow stem cells are harvested prior to the conditioning phase and it will be used when the transplant begins.
Umbilical Cord Transplant- The Umbilical cord that is connected to a newborn baby contains a lot of stem cells which can be used for transplantation. This procedure just harvests some of those cells for use in cell infusion inside the patient’s body.
Allogeneic Transplant- In the event that the Autologous Transplant fails, a donor will be needed to have their bone marrow be transplanted to the patient who is in need. Usually, doctors look at the immediate family of the patient for suitable donors, but the stem cells can also be harvested from an unrelated person; provided that they are compatible with the patient.
Two Ways of Harvesting
Bone Marrow Collection- This involves a minor surgical procedure because it uses some needles to collect the stem cells from the bone marrow.
Leukapheresis– The patient or the donor will be given a few shots of Filgrastim, a drug that can help improve the quality and quantity of the stem cells in the body for easier extraction. The stem cells will then be present in the bloodstream after a couple of days, meaning that it is ripe for the taking.