In recent years, Bone marrow transplant has emerged as a promising approach for treating various illnesses. Though it may seem a beneficial and modern treatment, you should carefully evaluate if it is the right treatment option for you.
Read below to know more about bone marrow transplants.
What is a Bone marrow transplant?
Before diving deeper into bone marrow transplants, let’s first understand what bone marrow is.
Bone marrow is a soft and spongy tissue present in our bones. It is enriched with stem cells which give rise to different types of blood cells (RBCs, WBCs, and platelets).
A bone marrow transplant uses healthy stem cells to replace the damaged bone marrow that is unable to produce a sufficient amount of healthy blood cells. Thus, the process is also known as a stem cell transplant. The role of a BMT is to restore the body’s ability to produce healthy blood cells. Thus, mitigating the effects of various illnesses.
The stem cells for the transplant could be obtained from the patient’s body or a donor. Based on this difference, a bone marrow transplant is of different types:
- Autologous Transplant: This type of transplant uses stem cells from the patient’s body. It is often used when you have received intensive radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Since such treatments can severely damage the immune system and stem cells, the doctors “rescue” the stem cells from the bone marrow or blood before the treatment begins. These cells are then frozen and returned back after the completion of treatment.
- Allogenic Transplant: In this case, the stem cells are taken from a donor who is usually a close family member like a sister or brother.
- Umbilical cord blood transplant: Stem cells are usually removed from the umbilical cord at the time of birth. These cells are then stored till the need for a transplant arises.
When is a Bone marrow transplant required?
A bone marrow transplant can be used for treating the following condition:
1. Blood cancers like leukemia, lymphomas, and multiple myelomas: In the case of cancers like leukemia which can damage the bone marrow, healthy blood cells are not produced in the body. This can lead to symptoms like fatigue or excessive bleeding. BMT is used to infuse healthy stem cells in the body which will replace the damaged cells and eventually form healthy blood cells. A BMT could also be used to eliminate leukemia cells.
2. Sickle cell disease: BMT is a promising cure for sickle cell disease. But, it is often a risky procedure. Usually, chemotherapy is given to eliminate unhealthy bone marrow. Then healthy stem cells are infused through blood transfusion. These stem cells then give rise to healthy blood cells that replace sickle cells. BMT is used in children only when all other treatment options have failed to improve the condition. Doctors consider the long-term benefits of the procedure over the possible risks while recommending this treatment.
3. Bone marrow diseases like severe aplastic anemia can be treated with an allogeneic transplant that uses healthy stem cells to replace the unhealthy bone marrow.
4. Immune disorders like SCID or severe combined immunodeficiency are a group of inherited disorders associated with the immune system. These can become life-threatening within the first year of birth. Thus, they need immediate treatment. BMT can replace the unhealthy immune system in the body with a healthy one.
What happens in a Bone marrow transplant?
The process of a bone marrow transplant can be divided into the following steps:
- Before the transplant, tests are conducted to evaluate your physical fitness. This helps to determine if you are ready to receive a transplant. The evaluation process may last for several days. During this stage, a long thin tube called an intravenous catheter is implanted into the large vein in the neck or chest. This remains in place throughout the procedure.
- Collecting cells for the transplant: If you are undergoing an autologous transplant, then apheresis can be done to collect blood stem cells. In case of an allogeneic transplant, the healthcare team will arrange the donor stem cells.
- After collecting stem cells, you will undergo a conditioning process in which you will receive intense chemotherapy. This will destroy cancer cells if you are receiving cancer treatment. It also creates space in the bone marrow for accepting new stem cells.
- This will be followed by an infusion of the stem cells via the catheter into the bloodstream.
Avail Bone Marrow Transplant Across the World
Getting a bone marrow transplant is an important decision. It is vital that you discuss the procedure in detail with your doctor before deciding to go through with it. By being aware of the entire process, you can make an educated decision for your health.