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By Newsdesk


Thursday, February 16, 2012.


The National Health Service (NHS) says more stem cell donors from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities are needed to help meet patient need.


People from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities can wait significantly longer for a bone marrow transplant and in many cases patients die waiting as a match is never found.


So NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is urging blood donors from the Black and Asian communities to give an extra blood sample at their next session and join the British Bone Marrow Registry (BBMR).


The BBMR is a vital national resource and has provided donations to facilitate in excess of 1,500 life-saving stem cell transplants. It enrols individuals aged 18-49 as potential stem cell donors through blood donor sessions, thereby minimising additional demands on the donor in terms of providing an additional blood sample. Stem cells are collected from bone marrow and peripheral blood.


Theo Clarke, Lead Donor Relations Manager for BME and Special Projects said; “People from the Black and Asian communities are incredibly under represented on the BBMR, yet the best chance of someone recieving a match, beyond their immediate family members, is from within their own community. Patients from BME communities have up to 30% less chance of finding a match for a bone marrow transplant. So it’s vital that more people from these communities sign up to improve these patients’ chances of finding a suitable life-saving match.”


Menaz Bhatti’s daughter, Inayah, had a bone marrow transplant when she was just 6 months old. The 7 year-old from Birmingham was born with Osteopetrosis, a rare bone disease which can also lead to blindness and deafness. Although Inayah has a severe visual impairment, the operation was a success.


“Me and my husband both wanted to donate to our daughter, but we weren’t a match so we had to turn to the Bone Marrow Register,” said Menaz.


“She was lucky enough to get a match from an Asian donor, but so many people from our community are not so lucky. A lot of Asians I have spoken to generally agree with bone marrow donation, but rarely get round to actually signing up. I would encourage everyone from black and Asian backgrounds to seriously think about signing up and help save someone’s life, like Inayah was helped.”


The NHS says that it is important to recruit donors from various different ethnic backgrounds in order to introduce more of the tissue types that are commonly found in our communities in to bone marrow registries. More Black and Asian donors and others with mixed origin are needed as it is for these groups that transplants can presently be difficult to find.


Diseases like Sickle Cell and Thalassemia are prevalent in BME communities and those with the most serious symptoms may need a bone marrow transplant. This is when people most in need will rely on individuals from their own communities to step forward and donate.


In about 30% of cases, a matched donor can be found from within the patient's family. The other 70% of patients have to rely on a matched volunteer donor, identified through the BBMR and patients from BME communities have to wait longer to find a match.  


To join the BBMR you must be aged between 18 and 49 years old (registered before your 50th birthday) and be a blood donor. You can join when you next give blood, or at the same time as your first donation. Mention you wish to join the register prior to donating and, at the time of your blood donation, and the NHS will take an extra blood sample, so that they can identify your tissue type for the registry. The BBMR works closely with colleagues at the Anthony Nolan to find the best match for a patient in the UK.


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