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How Stem Cells are Collected

There are different sources for stem cells: umbilical cord blood, peripheral blood stem cells, and bone marrow. They are each collected differently.

Cord Blood

In some hospitals, pregnant women are asked if they would consent to having their cord blood cells collected. Immediately after a baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut. Cells can be collected from the umbilical cord before or after the placenta (afterbirth) is delivered. The collected cells are sent to a cord blood bank like the one at MD Anderson, where specially trained technicians test the cells and freeze them until needed for transplantation. These precious cells that may otherwise have been thrown away can potentially save a life.

Bone Marrow Cells

People identified as donors will be asked to give stem cells from their bone marrow or blood. To donate bone marrow cells, a donor must be healthy and undergo general anesthesia. They are taken to the operating room for day surgery, put to sleep and placed on their stomach. Specially trained physicians remove bone marrow cells from the back of the pelvic bones with a needle. The donors return to the clinic the next day to have the bandage removed and make sure everything is fine.

Peripheral Blood Cells

Some donors will be asked to donate cells from their blood. A medicine called granuloctye cell stimulating factor (G-CSF), or Neupogen, is given once or twice daily to increase the number of circulating white blood cells and peripheral blood stem cells. About four days later, the donor will undergo apheresis. Two intravenous needles are inserted and connected to a machine that collects the peripheral blood stem cells and returns the unneeded cells back to the donor. Depending on how many peripheral blood stem cells are required, the donor may need to return in the next day or two for additional collection.

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