What is a Bone Marrow Transplant?

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A bone marrow transplant (haematopoietic stem cell transplantation) is a treatment that replaces damaged bone marrow cells with bone marrow stem cells (haematopoietic progenitor cells) from a healthy donor (allogeneic transplant) or from the patient themselves (autologous transplant). 
The aim of the transplant is to cure blood disorders or haematological malignancies (diseases that affect the blood, bone marrow or lymph nodes), such as leukaemia, that cannot be treated with other methods or treatments.

Diseases that require a Bone Marrow Transplant

Diseases that may need a bone marrow transplant are those which derive from bone marrow cells (blood disorders or haematological malignancies), e.g., leukaemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, etc. Although less common, a BMT may be indicated for certain autoimmune diseases, such as systemic sclerosis, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.

Not all haematological malignancies require a bone marrow transplant and so it is the haematologist who will select and then carry out this type of treatment.

Types of Bone Marrow Transplant

Person receiving marrow transplantation via venous

Autologous transplants. This type of transplant involves collecting the patient’s own stem cells. Autologous transplants are generally indicated in patients with lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

Allogeneic transplantation, compatible donor transplant or related donor, parent or sibling

Allogeneic transplants. The stem cells are collected from a healthy, compatible donor in allogeneic transplants. When the donor is one of the patient’s relatives then they are known as a related donor. It is usually a sibling or parent who tends to be 100% compatible. Not all siblings are compatible; in fact the probability of compatibility between siblings is 25% (1 in 4). 

If a patient does not have a compatible sibling, then their medical team will start searching for an unrelated donor in the various international registries. These donors are called unrelated donors. The likelihood of finding a compatible donor in the registries varies from patient to patient. 

Substantiated information by:

Ariadna Domenech
Carla Ramos
Gonzalo Gutierrez-Garcia

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018


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