For a stem cell transplantation to succeed, it is important to find the best possible match between recipient and donor in terms of HLA (human leukocyte antigens) tissue characteristics. If this is not the case, a severe rejection reaction can occur in the patient’s body. For about one third of patients, an immediate sibling may be an eligible donor due to having similar genes. The likelihood is lower with parents and other blood relatives.
An unrelated donor must therefore be found for most patients – via the ZKRD. Again, the HLA characteristics are pivotal to success. Some combinations of tissue types are relatively common, while some individuals have rarer tissue types which in extreme cases may be unique in Germany, perhaps even worldwide.
To register, contact one of the German donor centers. For a list of the addresses for all German donor centers, click here.
There are two methods for collecting stem cells from donors: peripheral blood stem cell donation or bone marrow donation.
Peripheral blood stem cell donation is now the standard technique for collecting stem cells. Hence, we no longer tend to talk about bone marrow transplants but rather (blood) stem cell transplants. Doctors may opt for or rule out a particular method depending on the patient’s health. The patient’s diagnosis may also influence the doctor’s choice of a specific blood stem cell source. Usually, however, they always try to account for the donor’s wishes.
Neither method of stem cell collection is usually associated with any health issues. It is not necessary to stay in hospital after donating peripheral blood stem cells. If donating bone marrow, the donor will remain on the ward for one to two days and may also experience discomfort around the puncture site for a few days.
If there is mutual interest, it is possible in Germany for the donor and recipient to get to know each other after the donation provided they both agree. As a rule, contact is initially established anonymously through postal or e‑mail communication. This is only a recommendation, however, not a rule. In Germany, it is only possible to meet in person two years after the transplantation. If the donor or patient comes from a country where contact is not permitted, the stricter rules will apply.
Our information leaflet on how donors and patients can get to know each other can be downloaded here.