Being an Unrelated Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Donor

Each year, thousands of people donate bone marrow or stem cells to a complete stranger.

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You could be someone's hero - someone you don't know and may never meet - but to whom you can give the gift of life by donating bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells.

Who Can be an Unrelated Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Donor?

In the United States, NMDP® recruits volunteers between the ages 18-40 to be bone marrow or stem cell donors. 

If you live outside the U.S. go to The World Marrow Donor Association for information about the donor recruitment agency in your country.

What Happens If I Match Someone Who Needs a Transplant?

Some people join the NMDP® Registry and are called upon to donate within a matter of months. Others wait years, or are never called at all.  

If you are called upon to be a donor, you will receive extensive counseling about the donation procedure from an NMDP® representative. You will be asked to provide a blood sample for additional tests to confirm that you are a good match for the patient. You will have the opportunity to ask questions about how donating will impact your health and what type of time commitment is involved before making a final decision about whether or not to donate.

The medical procedure you will undergo is described in the How Bone Marrow and Stem Cells are Collected section of our website. 

Who Will Get My Bone Marrow or Stem Cells?

Many donors want information about the person to whom their cells will be given. Although you will not be told the patient's name, you will be given some information such as whether the person is a child or an adult, and the patient's gender and diagnosis. If you donate through NMDP® you may be able to learn the patient's identity and how to contact him or her one year after transplant, provided the patient agrees to share this information.

Before you join the registry, think carefully about whether this is a commitment you want to make. Although you can always change your mind after signing up, this can cause great distress for a patient's family, particularly if you are the only potential donor for the patient.

(To view this page in Spanish click here)

Next Page: Donating Umbilical Cord Blood

Updated June, 2024