There are currently about 100 patients in Finland waiting to find a suitable stem cell donor. Stem cell transplantation is the last hope for these patients. Stem cell treatment leads to improved health in between 50–70% of adult patients and 60–90% of children. Every year, 20–40 Finns donate stem cells to patients who are complete strangers. The stem cell register constantly needs new members.
“Stem cell transplantation is about finding the right donor", says Matti Korhonen, Chief Physician of the Stem Cell Registry.
“The stem cell donor and recipient need to have as similar tissue type as possible. Unfortunately, due to the wide spectrum of tissue types, a suitable donor cannot be found for everyone. That’s why it’s so important for as many people as possible to join the Stem Cell Register. By joining, you can save another person’s life", Korhonen emphasises.
Members of the Finnish Stem Cell Register are also added to the international register. It is essential that the domestic register continues to gain donors, however, as for some patients treated in Finland, a transplant can only be found in the Finnish register.
“Due to our population history, Finns have genetic characteristics that do not exist elsewhere”, Korhonen explains.
More than 55,000 Finns have already volunteered to donate their stem cells to patients whose identities they don’t know. Most stem cell transplants are used to treat leukaemia patients.
At the moment, the Stem Cell Register is in dire need of young men in particular. “Two thirds of register members are women. Their membership is valuable, and women are also selected to donate stem cells. However, for biological reasons, men are more often selected as donors than women, which makes it so important that we get enough men in the register”, Korhonen stresses.
The Stem Cell Register, which is maintained by the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service (FRCBS), has just launched a recruitment campaign aimed at inspiring all those interested in helping patients to encourage any young men they know to become members of the register. Recruiters of new male members will be given a gift card as a thank you.
Those who wish to join the Stem Cell Registry should be aged between 18 and 35 and in good general health. You can easily test your suitability to donate blood stem cells with no binding commitment at www.sovinkoluovuttajaksi.fi. You can also join the register electronically. The Blood Service will then send you a sampling kit for the initial sample to your home address. Once you are ready to give a sample, you will be asked to use a cotton wool swab to take a sample from the inside of your cheek and then mail it to the Stem Cell Registry. The preliminary tissue type will then be determined from this initial sample.
Celebrate World Marrow Donor Day on 18 September! The purpose of the day is to thank all stem cell donors and those in the register, and to raise awareness of the importance of stem cell donation.
Might you be the perfect donor match?