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Transplantation Overview

What is of stem cell transplantation?

The transfusion of healthy stem cells, obtained from blood, into the body. These transfused stem cells go to the bone marrow and produce normal blood cells.

What is bone marrow, and what does it have to do with sickle cell disease?

Bone marrow is the soft substance in the middle of bones that contains stem cells. Stem cells produce the cells of the blood:

  • Red blood cells, which carry oxygen
  • White blood cells, which fight infection
  • Platelets, which stop bleeding

The sickle gene tells the bone marrow stem cells to make abnormal red blood cells with sickle hemoglobin.

Why is stem cell transplantation performed?

In order to get rid of the sickle cells, the body requires normal bone marrow stem cells. If a donor has a different set of genes, like the sickle trait or no sickle gene at all, then that donor's bone marrow stem cells can be transfused into the recipient to make new stem cells. These donor stem cells will make healthy red blood cells that will not sickle.

How do I know if I have a donor?

Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing is used to match patients and donors for stem cell transplants. HLAs are proteins - or markers - found on most cells in your body. Your immune system uses these markers to recognize which cells belong in your body and which do not.

Before you get your transplant, our physicians will take a blood sample to test for your HLA type. A full HLA match between brothers or sisters from the same parents give the best chance for successful stem cell transplantation. There is a 25% chance a sibling will have an identical HLA type.