Over 3,000 people die annually due to not receiving bone marrow. For this reason, more donors are desperately needed to avoid more lives being lost. Also, 70% of patients don't have a match within their own family, so they need strangers to be generous enough to donate their own bone marrow.
Mainly, sick people of color are in need, as there’s a scarcity in minority donors.
As an incentive, you can potentially earn money for giving your bone marrow or your stem cells from the marrow. Thousands of dollars could be placed in your pocket.
And in donating your marrow, you can directly save a life or contribute to the foundation for saving lives in the future.
What Is Bone Marrow?
There are two kinds of bone marrow: red bone marrow (myeloid tissue) and yellow bone marrow (fatty tissue). Both types are filled with blood vessels and capillaries. The bone marrows are responsible for the production of the majority of blood vessels in the body, making 200 daily.
Stem Cells in Bone Marrow
Stem cells are predeveloped cells eventually able to transform into various kinds of cells. Human bone marrow contains two kinds of stem cells: mesenchymal and hematopoietic.
The red bone marrow soft tissue has hematopoietic or blood-forming stem cells. The yellow bone marrow is made up of mesenchymal or marrow stromal stem cells, which produce fat, cartilage, and bone.
These kinds of cells are able to form cells exactly like themselves, as stem cells are always dividing and generating brand new cells.
Some of these cells will continue to be stem cells, while others will mature, eventually transitioning to blood cells. Stem cells make millions of blood cells daily.
Each red blood cell made has a lifespan of around 100-120 days. All will dissolve at one point, which is fine, as a healthy body will always replace the blood cells lost.
Undeveloped blood cells are prevented from leaving the body by blood vessels. This is because only blood cells at their final stage have all the anatomy necessary to pass through blood vessels. But, hematopoietic stem cells are able to cross as well.
Blood-forming stem cells in red bone marrow will eventually develop into various kinds of blood cells that complete different functions.
The red blood cells are necessary to disperse oxygen throughout the body. Meanwhile, white blood cells serve as a shield against infection and disease. Platelets prevent excessive bleeding by creating clots.
Mesenchymal cells are located in the bone marrow cavity.
At the end of pre-birth development, bone marrow initially develops in the fetus' clavicle. Three weeks later, the marrow is active.
Bone marrow is entirely red until you’re about seven years old. As you get older, some of that red marrow starts to become yellow marrow or fat tissue. By the time you’re an adult, approximately half of your bone marrow is yellow.
The majority of the red marrow is held in the:
- femur and tibia
The rest of the body, for the most part, contains yellow marrow.
Red Bone Marrow Function
Red bone marrow is responsible for creating all of the red blood cells and platelets in adults, and the majority of lymphocytes (white blood cells). Each of these has a different life span, hence why the red marrow has to replace them continually.
At the same time, red bone marrow disposes of old and worn-out red blood cells.
Red blood cells are essential to the circulatory system, as they transport oxygen to your entire body.
When you get an infection, the red bone marrow will rapidly generate new white blood cells and potentially platelets if you bleed.
Yellow Bone Marrow Function
Yellow marrow is essentially a storage container for human fat while maintaining an environment that allows the bone to function.
In certain instances, however, yellow bone marrow may transform into red bone marrow. Situations like these include severe blood loss or high fevers, as red blood marrow will be needed more.
Yellow marrow is generally held within the middle portions of long bones. It’s also encircled by red marrow.
What Is Donated Bone Marrow Used For?
There are many reasons why somebody might need a bone marrow transplant.
Marrow from a donor can serve as a replacement for bone marrow currently diseased or unhealthy as a result of one of various possible conditions, such as:
Bone marrow can also essentially rebuild a human's immune system, thus enabling it to combat cancers that can't be destroyed with radiation or chemotherapy, like leukemia.
It can also restore the healthy state of marrow after extensive doses of chemotherapy or radiation for a malignant growth or tumor. Cancer treatments may diminish the body's ability to form blood cells, so a transplant can bring your numbers back up.
Replacing marrow can also prevent more damage being done by a genetic disease, like Hurler's syndrome.
What Are The Requirements For Donating Bone Marrow?
Not everyone is able to donate their bone marrow, as there are some guidelines that need to be kept in mind.
If you want to donate marrow, you need to be between the ages of 18 and 44. Older people can’t give, as when you’re younger, your cells are of better quality than those of an older adult.
Therefore, the age restriction is set for the sake of the donor in terms of health. The risk of complication will be slightly higher. The requirement is also put in place to ensure only quality marrow is given to the recipient. Patients given marrow cells from younger donors are more likely to survive.
Although younger donors are better, people younger than 18 can’t donate due to the national age of consent (18 years old), even if a parent gives permission.
If you’ve ever been diagnosed with AIDS or HIV, you’re unable to become a bone marrow donor, as the disease will be transmitted.
For most allergies, such as light animal allergies, pollen/environmental allergies, and medication/latex allergies, you are able to donate.
However, if you have a potentially fatal allergy, there is a chance you might be denied the registration.
With mild or moderate osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis, you should remain eligible to donate. Keep in mind mild/moderate arthritis means it has only a small effect on your day to day activities. You should also be able to relieve it with medicine.
If your condition is severe, you can't donate. Severe means having advanced forms of arthritis such as:
If you have asthma that requires you to take daily pills, you can’t donate.
Autoimmune diseases that take a toll on the entirety of your body disqualify you from donating. These include, but are not limited to:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Severe psoriasis
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Addison's disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
You can, however, donate if the autoimmune illness you’re dealing with is mild and secluded to one organ/organ system in your body, such as:
- Celiac disease
- Crohn's disease
- Graves' disease
- Guillain-barre syndrome
- Hashimoto's thyroiditis
- Mild psoriasis
- Meniere's disease
- Raynaud's syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
If you have a condition that causes uncontrollable bleeding, such as hemophilia, ever had a blood clot deep in your veins, or any similar issues, you can’t donate.
Brain Injury & Surgery
Having had an extensive brain injury or brain surgery, you can't become a donor, even if you are 100% recovered.
Also, if you’ve had more than six concussions throughout your lifetime, been knocked out over sixty minutes because of a concussion, or had a concussion so severe it lasted over a month, you cannot register.
If you've had to deal with cells that could potentially lead to cancer, you’re able to donate. None of these disqualify you from donating, as long as you did not need/receive any chemotherapy:
- Cured localized skin cancer
- Early stage healed breast cancer in situ
- Bladder cancer in early stages
- Early stage cured cervical cancer
- Early stage melanoma
Other types of cancers, except for blood cancer, are also okay, as long as its been at least five years since you were diagnosed, it didn't reoccur, and you didn't need any chemo or radiation.
Drug Use/ Mental Health Issues
If in the past you’ve dealt with addiction or mental health, it’s okay to donate as long as you’ve gone through treatment and have been sober for at least a year.
Conditions such as these do not disqualify you as long as you’re stable:
The reason for the mental health guideline is to make sure that, once you register, you’ll remain stable enough to participate.
But there are some exceptions. Heart illnesses corrected in childhood or well-regulated mitral valve prolapse will not bar you from giving marrow.
However, you can donate if you’ve been intimate with somebody or had potential contact with hepatitis B or C. You can also have had hepatitis A, as long as you’re fully recovered.
If you have significant and/or chronic issues in the kidney, you’re ineligible to provide bone marrow to patients. These include polycystic kidney disease and chronic glomerulonephritis.
If you’ve had your kidney removed due to an illness, you’re ineligible to sign up. But, if your kidney was removed to donate it, you may give marrow as long as you’re fully recovered. Kidney stones do not prevent you from donating either.
If you’re pregnant, you can't donate until you give birth and recover from the c-section or delivery. The cells will not be able to be retrieved if you’re pregnant.
Centers will use your BMI to determine if you’re a right candidate to donate. If donating at your weight would potentially become threatening to you, you will not be able to. This applies to anybody who is significantly overweight or underweight.
What Should You Bring with You to the Donation Center?
There isn’t really anything you need to take with, especially if you’re doing the surgical procedure.
However, if you’re doing the apheresis method, it would be a good idea to take some form of entertainment. You’ll be getting your blood drawn, filtered, and replaced for over half an hour.
Therefore, you can and should take a tablet, laptop, etc. Most centers will have free Wi-Fi.
You should also wear comfortable clothing for apheresis, as you’ll be laying down in a recliner-like chair. Your shirt should be long-sleeved, as it will make it easier to insert the needles necessary to extract and insert blood.
Bone Marrow Donation Process
Before you donate, you’ll go through an information session in which the potential risks and side effects will be detailed. You will also be told about the entire process. Usually, the meeting is about 1 1/2 hours. During this period, you’re able to ask any questions or raise any concerns before moving on with the process.
Next, in order to confirm you have no reservations about donating and give full consent to the donation, you have to fill out a consent waiver.
Then, you will experience a physical exam. This is needed to ensure a donation of your bone marrow will not be of risk to the recipient or you.
Doctors will take blood samples multiple times in the span of numerous sessions, which will be scheduled at whatever center you’re donating at.
Once you’re officially signed up as a donor, the donation will be set up. You will have a physical exam in addition to any other preparation necessary.
Often, to donate, you’re required to travel. Many locations will arrange travel for you, so you don't have to pay for it.
There are two options for methods to donate bone marrow.
Option one is through a Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC). With PBSC, for five days before you donate, you’re given a drug called “filgrastim.” Filgrastim inhibits the production of white blood stem cells.
The process is called apheresis. With apheresis, blood is extracted from your body through a vein in your arm. The blood is then sent through a machine, which will then separate the white blood stem cells and then extract them. The remainder of your blood will be returned to your body through a vein in your other arm.
The second option is to undergo a surgical procedure to remove some of your marrow. You will have anesthesia; therefore, you will not feel any pain. Some bone marrow will be taken from the hip bone, as it is the largest bone in your body. The part that it is extracted from is called the iliac crest, the back of the pelvic bone.
The marrow will be removed from both sides of the bone with a syringe at once to quicken the procedure.
None of your bone itself is removed. Only the liquid bone marrow is taken. About one quart of marrow and blood is collected.
How Long Does It Take To Donate Bone Marrow?
Usually, the apheresis process will take between 4-6 hours.
The surgical bone marrow extraction process will take less than two hours, so you won't be unconscious for very long.
Are There Side Effects & Risks?
There are risks associated with PBSC, but less than 1% of donors experience any serious complications.
For example, if your veins are not very visible, a central line may be required. This means a tube will be stuck into one of your larger veins. These include;
- femoral vein
- internal jugular vein
- subclavian vein
About 20% of the woman who donated and about 3% of the male donors end up needing a central line.
Using a central line for any procedure comes with risks, including:
- catheter occlusion
- bleeding and hematoma
- catheter-tip migration
- catheter rupture
- deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
There is also the chance you could get an infection due to the filgrastim injections. Side effects include:
- pain in the bones
- aching of muscles
- hair loss
- tired feeling
- skin rash
- redness, swelling, itching, lumps or bruising at the infection site
However, the chances of dealing with these complications are minuscule.
Some risks come with the surgical part of donating marrow. With any surgery, there is risk associated with receiving general anesthesia. A few potential reactions to anesthesia are:
- sore throat from having a breathing tube
- moderate nausea
The surgery could possibly damage the nerves, bone, and blood vessels within proximity to where the bone marrow was retrieved. You could also have excessive bleeding, leading to internal infections.
With PBSC, you may experience:
- bone ache
- muscle pain
- difficulty sleeping
- decrease in amount of platelets in blood
With a surgical donation, once it’s complete, you might feel achiness in the part of your body where the bone marrow was withdrawn. Some potential effects are:
- bruising at the surgical site
- difficulty walking
Along with these, you might feel a sense of fatigue. Because of the potentially harmful effects, it’s recommended you take at least a week off of work, but you might feel better within a couple of days.
Some more serious side effects can occur with receiving filgrastim shots. However, they’re not very common. Some severe side effects of the injections include:
- easy bleeding or bruising,
- bloody urine
- bloody vomit
- fast or odd heartbeat
If you experience any of these, it’s imperative you contact a doctor.
Just like any surgery, there’s the chance you will have to deal with some more severe effects if you donate marrow through a procedure. However, it’s not very likely. Less than 3% of donors dealt with extensive complications. It’s highly unlikely there will be any lingering issues.
The majority of serious complications are related to the heart.
Bone Marrow Donation Recovery
Generally, for donations through both PBSC and surgery, you’re able to return to your daily tasks, such as work, school, etc. within a few days. But you might have a bit of discomfort.
However, in order for your bone marrow to return to completely normal levels after surgery, it’ll be about 20 days. For PBSC, recovery time is usually around a week. The exact recovery time depends on the individual.
You will maintain contact with the donation centers, potentially doing follow-ups until you feel completely better.
You may deal with side effects, but there are simple ways to relieve them.
- Flu-like symptoms (headaches/ ache): take any pain relief medicine that doesn’t contain aspirin. Aspirin can prevent your blood from clotting properly, which is risky after you've donated.
- Easily Bruising: since you have a smaller amount of platelets, you might not clot properly and end up bruising. Therefore, you shouldn't enjoy too strenuous of activities until your platelets are regenerated.
- Fatigue: simply rest for at least 48 hours after donating.
Blood Marrow Surgical Procedure
- Morning light-headedness: stand up slowly, take it easy, and avoid strenuous activity.
- Messed up sleep pattern: rest and go to sleep earlier until your regular pattern returns.
- Appetite loss: make sure your meals are balanced well, even if they’re light meals.
- Swelling: use an icepack.
How Often Can I Donate Bone Marrow?
Since your bone marrow and stem cells are able to regenerate completely, you’re able to donate various times throughout your lifetime. It takes 4-6 weeks for your bone marrow to fully return, and only a couple of days for the stem cells. Therefore, donating does not disqualify you from donating again or eventually receiving a bone marrow transplant if you need one.
However, in order to donate, you need to be found as a match for somebody. Just to find a match once, it can be anywhere from a few days to years. You may never even get a match. Therefore, it’s rare to be a match for more than one person.
In order to find your match, you will provide a sample from your mouth. This will be taken in the form of a cheek swab. With the swab, your 'tissue type' will be found, which will then be tested against patients in the system to find an available match.
What States Can You Sell Bone Marrow?
Donating any body parts or organs for money, including bone marrow, was banned entirely in the US. However, a rule was formed, allowing you to give bone marrow for money in nine states legally:
You’re technically able to sell in other states. However, the compensation might not be in cash. Also, it might be payment for your time rather than the bone marrow itself.
How Much Does Bone Marrow Donation Pay?
Sick patients looking for a donor might pay you for your time. You can earn up to $3,000 for donating your marrow.
Compensation is offered to provide an incentive for registered donors to continuously update their information and go through with the donation if they’re picked. People have died because multiple registered donors ended up backing out. It will also encourage new people to register, especially minorities.
There is an emphasis on minorities, as most donors are middle-aged white donors. Therefore, if you’re African-American or of another minority status, you have a higher chance of getting picked.
How Do Bone Marrow Centers Pay You?
Bone marrow centers can pay you in a variety of ways. For example, in locations where it isn't legal to be compensated directly for bone marrow, you might receive money towards something else. If you’re in school, you might get help with tuition.
Otherwise, you might get compensation to make up for the cost of travel in cash or by check.
If you’re in one of the nine states where donating marrow for profit is legal, you will also likely be paid by cash or check.
Where can I donate Bone Marrow?
If you can’t make it to a center that will provide compensation, you can simply donate out of generosity. There are many more centers that don't pay than those that do.
Be The Match
Be the Match connects millions of donors with patients in desperate, potentially life-threatening, situations.
Be The Match is available in the following locations:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Puerto Rico
While you won't be paid for donating with them, Be the Match will pay for any costs in regards to the procedure and travel. Other expenses will be reimbursed on a “case-to-case basis.”
Your money will be given in cash.
You can donate as many times as you wish, provided you keep receiving matches.
To donate, you have to be between the ages of 18 and 60 years old. You will also be disqualified if you have any flu or infection-like symptoms or are pregnant. As long as your health is in decent condition, you should be able to donate, unless you:
- have asthma
- have HIV or aids
- have a severe arthritic disease
- have had a xenotransplant
- have a full-body autoimmune illness(es)
- are very underweight or overweight
There are more things to consider, which are detailed earlier in the article.
Where to Donate Bone Marrow for Money
Fred Hutch is located in Seattle, Washington. It’s the only location in America that pays a set price for marrow donations.
For non-mobilized donors, you receive $300. For mobilized donors, you receieve $800. You receive your compensation by check.
Fred Hutch will use your bone marrow and any blood donations with the intention of doing research. Their work is meant to develop treatments and cures to various diseases, such as cancer and HIV.
After donating, you have to wait 10+ weeks before you can donate again. As there isn't sufficient amounts of data based on the filgrastim shot, you’re unable to do over three mobilized donations within your lifetime.
To donate, you have to be between the ages of 18 and 70. Situations that will disqualify you from donating are:
- Having donated blood in the last few days.
- Have any symptoms of an infection
- Having been through leukapheresis in the last three weeks
- Being pregnant
HemaCare is based in Van Nuys, California. Their purpose is to use samples from bone marrow and blood donors for their research. In turn, they can find cures and treatments for diseases, like cancer, diabetes, and HIV.
The amount you can make is dependent on how much you donate and how much you give. The amount of money you make switches with every location.
You can donate again every ten weeks. When you first register, employees will reach out whenever donations are needed.
To give bone marrow, you have to be healthy, weighing 110+ pounds without being overweight. You have to be an adult and are unable to take any medicines that have aspirin for a few days prior to donating
You cannot give bone marrow if you’ve ever:
- Been diagnosed with or had sexual contact with somebody diagnosed with HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis B, or Hepatitis C
- Used needle-administered drugs or steroids that are not prescription
- Male who had sexual contact with another man any times since 1977.
- Been a sex worker since 1977
- Had syphilis or gonorrhea in the past year
- Been locked up for over 72 hours in the past year.
- Lived in or visited the UK for 3+ months
- Spent 5+ years in Europe since 1980
- Visited a malaria-risk country in the past year
Leuko Lab is based in Alameda, California and Quincy, Massachusetts. They take advantage of bone marrow donations to create treatments and cures for various diseases.
The amount you’re paid will vary depending on the amount you donate and the location. Once you earn money, you’ll receive a check in the mail within ten days. You can donate every ten weeks, and you’ll receive notice when more donors are needed.
To see if you qualify, you’re obligated to partake in a questionnaire.
Occasionally, desperate families will sponsor centers to provide the incentive of receiving payment towards mortgage or tuition. This will attract many people who would not have donated otherwise.
Sometimes, families will provide around $3,000 in order to get marrow for a dying family member.
If you’re between the ages of 18 and 16 and in good health, you should definitely consider donating bone marrow. This is particularly important if you’re a minority. By giving, you’re going through a process that will, in turn, save a life or multiple lives.
Your donated marrow will go to people suffering from various potentially deadly conditions, such as leukemia, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell anemia. It could also contribute to experiments that could eventually provide a cure for illnesses currently incurable.
For your time, you could possibly earn thousands of dollars, depending on how many times and how much you donate. However, this is not an option in many parts of the US, so you might need to travel to get paid.
This is why, as a donor, you should consider giving for free. While you won't be given compensation, you’ll be making all the difference in the lives of hospitalized people.