Registering as a bone marrow donor is as easy as filling out a form and swabbing the inside of your cheeks to collect cells for tissue typing. However, your commitment as a donor is serious because one day, someone's life may depend on you. It is important to be well informed before you register. Learn more here.

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There are two ways to donate bone marrow. The method used for donation depends upon the patient’s needs and is determined by the patient’s doctor.

A. Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation (PBSC):
In this method, cells are collected via the bloodstream. To increase the number of stem cells in the bloodstream, donors receive daily injections of a synthetic protein called filgrastim for 4 days before and on the day of the collection. 

On the day of collection the donor's blood is removed with a sterile needle from one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood stem cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm. The cell collection is an outpatient procedure that takes about 4-8 hours on 1-2 consecutive days. 

Possible side effects and recovery: While taking the medication, many donors experience flu-like symptoms such as headaches, bone and muscle achiness and fatigue. Most side effects should subside within 48 hours of donating.

B. Bone Marrow Donation:
Marrow cells are collected from the backside of the pelvic bone (not the spine) using a special syringe. Donors receive general anesthesia so no pain is experienced during the marrow extraction. This is a 1-2 hour, outpatient, surgical procedure. 

Possible side effects and recovery: Many donors experience some pain, bruising and stiffness for up to two weeks after their donation. Within a week of donating, most donors are able to return to work, school and many regular activities. The donor’s marrow is completely replenished within a few weeks.

Who can become a bone marrow donor? 
In principle, any generally healthy person between the ages of 18 and 55, who weighs at least 110 pounds and does not exceed a maximum body mass index (BMI) of 40, can register as a donor. 

Certain health prerequisites must be met. These restrictions are intended to protect the well-being of both the donor and the patient. 

Donors are asked to share personal information such as age, address and telephone number. This information is private but is included in the DKMS database.

Potential Donors MUST:

  • Be between the ages of 18 and 55
  • Be in good general health
  • Weigh more than 110 lbs but not exceed BMI 40
  • Not be HIV positive or have been diagnosed with AIDS
  • Not have had heart surgery or heart disease
  • Not have autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia
  • Not have sleep apnea, breathing problems or severe asthma (daily inhalers are acceptable)
  • Not have diabetes requiring insulin (or injectible medication)
  • Not have hepatitis B or C
  • Not have kidney or liver disease
  • Not have had a stroke (including a TIA)
  • Not have chronic or severe neck or back problems
  • Not have had uncontrolled epilepsy and not have had any seizures in the past year
  • Not have a history of blood clotting or a bleeding disorder
  • Not have a personal history of cancer (melanoma, breast, bladder and cervical cancer [stage 0, in situ] and cured localized skin cancer [basal cell or squamous cell] are acceptable)

Click here for additional health requirements

Weight Guidelines

Become a lifesaver. Register now. Have questions? Email us.

To see the complete list of frequently asked questions click here.