Stem cell transplant is the replacement of damaged bone marrow cells with healthy cells (stem cells). These stem cells are immature cells that are produced in the bone marrow that make more stem cells, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Stem cells can be taken from bone marrow, from the bloodstream or from umbilical cord blood.
Stem cells transplants that use stem cells donated by someone else are called allogeneic transplants. When a person’s own stem cells are used, it is called an autologous transplant. The success of a transplant can depend on the person’s age and general health and whether the donated calls match the body’s cells. There are serious complications that occur after a transplant that include rejection of the new stem cells, destruction of other cells in the body or a severe often life threatening infection.
Autologous stem cell transplants are done using peripheral blood cells. The stem cells are taken from blood. The blood is removed from a vein and passed through a machine that separates the stem cells. The machine returns the remaining blood through a needle in the person’s arm or through a central venous catheter. This way of collecting stem cells is called apharesis. In adults, most autologous transplants use stem cells from blood. In a child, the stem cells can come from the bone marrow as well.
When stem cells come from another person it is called an allogeneic transplant. The donor may be a relative or a complete stranger. The donor’s immune system markers must match closely to the person receiving the cells.
Sometimes the stem cells come from the blood inside a newborn’s umbilical cord.