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Bone marrow is a spongy tissue that is found in your breast bone (sternum), ribs, hip bones (pelvis), skull, and spine. Bone marrow produces white blood cells (which fight infection), red blood cells (which carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body), and platelets (which help blood to clot and wounds to heal). Any disease that stops production of these cells eventually leads to death.
Bone marrow transplantation can treat several diseases, which affect the immune system or blood:
- aplastic anemia
- cancer (such as leukemia or lymphoma)
- severe combined immune deficiency (genetic disorder in bone marrow)
- some genetic disorders
Only living donors can donate bone marrow. Sometimes, syringes and needles are used to remove bone marrow from the donor's pelvic bones. This takes 15-45 minutes. The bone marrow is then given intravenously (by needle) to the recipient. The donor goes home the same day. Other times, stem cells are collected from the donor, using a cell separation machine. A needle is inserted into each arm. Blood is taken from one arm and circulated through the machine to remove the stem cells. The rest of the blood is then returned back to the donor through a needle into the opposite arm. The collected stem cells are given to the recipient.