APR 23, 2016 3:00 PM PDT

Why Ethnicity Matters in Bone Marrow Transplants

WRITTEN BY: Julianne Chiaet

People need healthy bone marrow and blood cells to survive. Bone marrow is the flexible fatty substance in the interior of bones. The marrow produces blood cells in a process known as hematopoiesis.

Getting a bone marrow or cord blood transplant may be the only option for a patient battling blood cancers and disorders, like leukemia, lymphoma, and sickle cell anemia. Patients undergo high doses of chemotherapy in order to prepare their bodies for the transplant. They undergo a surgical procedure that replaces their unhealthy destructive marrow with healthy marrow. Sometimes, the patient receives the donated cells in a process similar to getting blood or medicine through an IV.

Unfortunately, a patient can't get a bone marrow transplant if they do not find a "match." A potential marrow donor provides cells, and information about them and their cells are put into the registry.

Genetic matching for bone marrow is done at the Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) level. Your immune system uses HLA markers to define which cells belong in your body and which don't. Because HLA markers are inherited, a person is most likely to find a match in someone who is the same ethnicity. People who identify as multiracial have more complex tissue types. Thus, it's important to increase the variety of tissue types in the registry.
About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to Jchiaet.com
You May Also Like
MAR 31, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 31, 2020
Can Viruses Survive in Outer Space?
Outer space is often depicted as a harsh environment. It’s effectively an airless vacuum, and anything residing th ...
APR 06, 2020
Plants & Animals
APR 06, 2020
The Merciless Rare Giant Snail Devours Earthworms
Rare giant snails are quite literally both rare and giant. These creatures can grow to the size of a human fist, and onl ...
APR 21, 2020
Space & Astronomy
APR 21, 2020
Did This Interstellar Comet Reveal Vital Clues About its Origins?
Oumuamua received tons of attention from astronomers once it was confirmed to be an interstellar object of unknown origi ...
APR 30, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 30, 2020
NASA's Laser Satellites Help Scientists Quantify Sea Ice Loss
Global climate change is melting Earth’s ice, and a recent study from NASA details how the polar ice sheets have c ...
MAY 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 24, 2020
The Pistol Shrimp's Secret Weapon...
Pistol shrimp have a unique reputation as one of the ocean’s most intriguing crustaceans. Most are only about the ...
MAY 25, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 25, 2020
Ever Wonder How Some Fish Produce Electricity?
When you hear the term ‘electric fish,’ the first thing that probably comes to mind is the infamous electric ...
Loading Comments...