We’re refreshing!

Come experience the new website and submit your feedback. The current site will temporarily
remain available as we make the final adjustments to the new online experience.

Click here to check it out. ►
1 888 2 DONATE(1 888 236-6283)
Find a Clinic:  search Search this site:  search
Book an appointment
Home > Stem Cells > Learn More
Facebook youTube Twitter flickr
Why Should I Donate?
Who Needs Blood?
Can I donate?
Basic Eligibility
Donor Questionnaire
Malaria policy
Donation Date Calculator
American Sign Language
What Can I Donate?
Types of Donations
Plasma & Platelets
Stem Cells
Financial Gifts
Blood for Research
How Can I Get Involved?
In My Community
Send an e-card
Public Involvement
Partners for Life
What's Your Type
Sign Up to Learn More
Young Blood For Life
Assignment Saving Lives
National Blood Donor Week
What Should I Know?
Pandemic Preparedness
Safety and Testing
Research & Development
West Nile Virus (WNV)
Transfusion Related Acute Lung Injury (TRALI)
vCJD Travel Deferral
Become a Volunteer
New Donor Form
Change Your Address
Join OneMatch
Become a Partner for Life Organization
Become a Partner for Life Member
Join Ready, Set... Give!
Donor Experience Survey
Customer Service
Circular of Information
Customer Letters
Plasma Protein Products
Hospital Customer Forms
Resource Library
OneMatch Documents
Adverse Events
Diagnostic Services

Frequently Asked Questions

MEN WANTED Ethnic Males 17 to 35 are needed now.

General Questions

The Need for More Ethnic Donors

Chinese Language Initiative

Stem Cells & Cord Blood

How To Join

Buccal Swabs

The Donor/Recipient

What is the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network?

Canadian Blood Services' OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network is a program dedicated to recruiting healthy, committed volunteer donors for patients in need of stem cells. OneMatch also conducts searches for matched, unrelated donors for patients; ensures donors are healthy and able to donate; and coordinates the collection and delivery of stem cells in Canada and around the world.

Fewer than 30 per cent of patients who need stem cell transplants are able to find a match within their own families. The rest rely on the generosity of a donor who has volunteered to give stem cells to anyone in need.

/\ Top

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are immature cells that are capable of developing into any of the cells present in the bloodstream - red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other blood components. Patients who have a disease that inhibits their ability to produce these cells will need a transplant of healthy stem cells from a donor. Stem cells can come from bone marrow, circulating (peripheral) blood or umbilical cord blood.

OneMatch donors may be asked to donate either bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells depending on which product is considered to be the best choice for the patient.

/\ Top

Who needs stem cell transplants?

Hundreds of Canadians are in need of transplants every year. As of October 2008, there were about 600 Canadian patients waiting for a stem cell match.

A wide variety of diseases and disorders are treated with transplants. These include specific forms of cancer like leukemias, lymphomas or myelomas. Others needing stem cell transplants include those patients with inherited immune system and metabolic disorders. In 2007 alone, 233 Canadians received transplants, and many more could have been helped if more donors had been available. For most of these patients, a transplant may be the last and best chance for recovery from a serious illness.

In 2006, 77 per cent of stem cells used by Canadian patients were imported from other countries, rather than matched to Canadian donors.

/\ Top

How does it work in Canada?

More than 237,000 Canadians have volunteered to donate stem cells to anyone who might need them. The tissue typing results of all of these potential donors is maintained in a database that can be searched whenever a patient's transplant physician requests a search for a donor. The search results are provided to the patient's transplant physician within one business day.

OneMatch is part of an international group of 59 registries from 43 countries and 40 cord blood banks from 25 countries that transmit their monthly donor tissue typing results to Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide (BMDW). As a result of this critical international cooperation, OneMatch, when searching on behalf of Canadian patients, has access to more than 12.5 million volunteer donors and more than 300,000 cord blood units.

By making donor data available worldwide, the odds of finding a matching donor for any patient, anywhere in the world is greatly increased. It is a cooperative system that works for the benefit of donors and patients.

/\ Top

What kinds of donors are needed?

Right now there is a special need for ethnic males aged 17 to 35.

If you are healthy, between the ages of 17 and 35, and are willing to donate stem cells to anyone in need, you may be able to help. The genetic markers used to match donors to patients occur with different frequencies in different ethnic groups. For this reason, a person's best chance of finding a matching donor is within his or her own ethnic group. Therefore, donors from as many ethnic communities as possible are needed to enhance the database so it has a broad ethnic representation that reflects the needs of all Canadian patients.

While OneMatch has made advances in attracting more ethnically-diverse registrants, there is still room to grow. As of October 2008, 83 per cent of Canada's Network is Caucasian and the remaining 17 per cent is of various ethnic backgrounds. Yet one in five Canadians identifies themselves as foreign born according to the 2006 Census.

/\ Top

What about age? Do younger people make better donors?

Research indicates that younger donors are associated with better long-term survival rates. That is why OneMatch is making a concerted effort to recruit younger donors, as well as enhance the database by having a broader ethnic representation that will meet the needs of all patients.

/\ Top

Will I be able to save a life by registering?

Not every person who joins the program will be asked to donate stem cells, but every person who joins gives additional hope to stem cell transplant patients and may very well be the one match who saves a life. Of those who are found as a match, the average length of time they spend on the Network is seven years. That's why joining is a long-term commitment. People who register must be committed to donating stem cells to anyone who needs them.

It is important to note that the same patients who will require a stem cell transplant will also require blood and blood products during their treatments. Even if you are never asked to donate stem cells, you can still help these same patients by donating blood. In fact, 43 per cent of OneMatch stem cell donors are also blood donors.

/\ Top

If there is an international group of 59 registries to call upon for a patient in need, why does Canada need more donors?

The more volunteer donors worldwide, the better the chance of a patient in need finding that one person who can save his or her life.

Out of 10 international registries, ranging from the United States to countries in Europe and Asia, Canada has the highest percentage of imported stem cells. In 2006, 77 per cent of stem cells used by Canadian patients were imported from other countries.

The diverse ethnic makeup of Canada differs somewhat from other countries, so it's important for OneMatch to be able to accurately reflect our own country's cultural makeup. For example in other countries, "diversity" is more homogeneous; while Canada's ethnic makeup is a mosaic of ethno-cultural groups.

It is also important to note that importing stem cell products is expensive. The more Canadian donors that can support Canadian patients means better use of our healthcare dollars.

/\ Top

It's been a year since OneMatch made its call for more non-Caucasian donors. What are the results??

OneMatch has made tremendous strides in recruiting more donors from diverse ethnic backgrounds in just a one-year period.

In the past year, there have been more than 3,600 new registrants from non-Caucasian backgrounds. That's an overall increase of 120 per cent in new donors from non-Caucasian backgrounds. We have seen the most growth in ethnic donors among the Asian and South Asian communities. For example, new Asian donors account for a 283 per cent increase from last year.

But even with OneMatch's advances, there is still more room to grow. From January to September this year, the majority of new registrants are Caucasian. About 73 per cent of new registrants have been Caucasian and 27 per cent listed as other ethnicities.

Click here for the ethnic breakdown of the current potential stem cell donors in Canada.

/\ Top

What is OneMatch doing to reach out to people of different backgrounds who do not feel comfortable speaking English or French? For example, I speak Cantonese.

The need for diversifying the network to reflect Canada's cultural mosaic means that OneMatch must be able to meet the needs of diverse ethnic communities. One way of achieving this is by using interpreters in interactions with first-generation Canadians who would normally be excluded if unable to work through oral and written registration processes.

OneMatch is starting a language initiative that would provide interpretive services to donors speaking languages other than English and French, and our first step is in Mandarin and Cantonese. The Chinese-Canadian population is one of the under-represented groups on the OneMatch Network, and Chinese languages are the third largest mother tongue spoken in Canada (Statistics Canada 2006).

OneMatch recognizes that it will never be able to provide services for all languages. However it became clear that in order to grow our ethnic donor base OneMatch needed to look at testing language services.

/\ Top

So how does this language initiative work?

OneMatch documents - everything from our cheek swab kit and registration forms to specific medical correspondence - have been translated into simplified and traditional Chinese. This has been through a partnership with the Elizabeth Lue Bone Marrow Foundation in Toronto.

Translators will also be provided to assist potential donors making their way through the registration process and - if a donation is made - all the way through the post-donation follow-up. In total, there are 31 individual interactions that OneMatch may have with a potential stem cell donor.

Translated materials will be available for download from our website at Potential donors can also call 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283) for more information.

/\ Top

Can I register online in Chinese using your online questionnaire? Will you have a Chinese-version of your website?

Unfortunately, at this time no. Due to constraints with our web and server technologies, we can not support Chinese characters on our website. This includes having our online questionnaire in Chinese.

However, we have placed Chinese registration materials on our website with a link for downloading. Registrants can download, print and complete the forms in traditional or simplified Chinese and mail them to our OneMatch offices. They will be then contacted by an OneMatch representative and a certified translator, if requested.

/\ Top

How do you determine who can translate? Can anyone who speaks Chinese serve as a translator?

It is important that a potential stem cell donor fully understands his or her responsibility as a donor before giving stem cells.

For example, the first part of the screening process to become a potential stem cell donor is the health assessment. This is a questionnaire that assesses a person's state of health, potential for giving stem cells, and potential risk factors to the recipient. A donor must be able to fully understand his or her responsibility as a donor and be aware of any associated risks to themselves or the recipient.

This means it is important for OneMatch to ensure consistent standards are met when translating sensitive, medical information so that there is no misunderstanding. This is both for the safety of the donor and the stem cell recipient.

OneMatch has partnered with AILIA (Association de l'industrie de la langue/Language Industry Association), which will provide the Network with links to certified translators within the Canadian language industry.

AILIA is an international leader in translation and interpretation services, and the organization has national guidelines that serve as translation standards.

/\ Top

Are you also providing interpreters for other languages for blood donation?

Canadian Blood Services started a language advisory committee more than a year ago to build a submission to our regulator, Health Canada, to allow American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters to accompany the blood donor through the entire blood donation process. Following the success of this submission, the language advisory committee is now working on a submission to Health Canada for interpreters of other languages. This will be submitted in early 2009.

Canadian Blood Services will likely take a similar approach to other language interpreters as OneMatch, by piloting in one or two languages in a pilot site.

/\ Top

Does Canada have a cord blood bank?

Canadian Blood Services' OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network is able to search all available cord blood units from around the world as requested by Canadian transplant centre physicians. Similar to unrelated donors, all available units are listed on an international database, Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide. Once the unit is identified from this database, OneMatch contacts the appropriate bank upon request of the transplant centre.

Canadian Blood Services has recently been asked by the provincial and territorial Deputy Ministers of Health to put together a business case for a national cord blood bank. If the Deputy Ministers of Health approve, Canadian Blood Services could become responsible for administering this new entity.

/\ Top

What is a stem cell transplant?

In a stem cell transplant, a patient's diseased marrow/stem cells are replaced with healthy stem cells from a volunteer donor. In fact, you may be more familiar with the term "bone marrow transplant." We know that the same stem cells found in bone marrow are found in peripheral (or circulating) blood, and either source may be selected depending on the patient's needs.

To prepare for the transplant, the recipient is usually given high doses of radiation, chemotherapy, or both, to destroy the diseased marrow. This kills cancerous cells, but also destroys the patient's immune system to prevent the rejection of the newly transplanted stem cells from the unrelated donor.

Once this preparation is completed, the recipient must receive the donor's stem cells in order to survive. Should a potential donor decide not to donate at this critical point the patient could die. This emphasizes the importance of the donor's commitment, and underscores why OneMatch has developed a registration process that promotes this commitment.

As soon as possible following collection of the bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells from the donor, the donation is given intravenously to the recipient.

/\ Top

Who can join?

We encourage any healthy person who is between the ages of 17 and 35, and is committed to helping any patient, anywhere in the world to join.

/\ Top

How can you join?

There are two ways to join. The quickest and simplest way to join is to follow the registration process, click here or call Canadian Blood Services at 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283) to have a registration package mailed to you.

It is important to remember that the paper consent forms must be original - photocopies are not acceptable. It is also important to note that if you are submitting online, you must do this personally.

Please do not provide your personal information to a third party to do this for you as this will not fulfil the legal registration requirements. (This does not apply to OneMatch interpretive services). This consent process is in place to ensure that you have received, read and understood the information needed to make an informed decision. Once we have received your health assessment and consent form, we will contact you to make arrangements to have you tested, so that your typing results can be stored in the database for searching.

/\ Top

How long will it take to receive a call from an OneMatch representative after I apply?

At one point earlier this year, due to the tremendous response from potential donors, it sometimes took a number of weeks to process a request. OneMatch is pleased to say we offer a two-business day response to those indicating that they wish to become a stem cell donor. Our collaboration with Canadian Blood Services' National Contact Centre has been successful in providing prompt responses to donors.

/\ Top

Can I withdraw from OneMatch?

While it is certainly possible to withdraw from the Network, OneMatch counts on donor commitment from the time of registering to becoming a potential match for a patient.

Sometimes during the period of time between registering and donating, there are other factors, such as illness, that might change a donor's eligibility and may mean they need to withdraw as a potential donor.

/\ Top

Is it painful to donate stem cells?

Canadian Blood Services facilitates two types of procedures - stem cell donation from bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell donation. For bone marrow donation, the collection of stem cells is taken from the iliac crest and this type of procedure is done under general anaesthetic so the donor experiences no pain. Some donors have said they have experienced mild soreness after the procedure. The soreness has been compared to what it might feel like following hard exercise or a fall on the ice.

For peripheral blood stem cell donation, the collection is a non-surgical procedure done in an outpatient clinic and does not involve anaesthetic. The donor does not experience pain during either procedure.

/\ Top

Can people from other countries sign up with OneMatch? For example, can someone who is visiting on a visa sign up?

At time, we are unable to accept people who do not have provincial healthcare coverage.

/\ Top

I live in the country. Going to the city to take a blood test is very inconvenient for me.

Until recently becoming a stem cell donor meant taking a blood test. Not any more. From now on, registering to help Canadians suffering from such life-threatening illnesses as leukemia, lymphoma or sickle-cell disease is as simple and painless as brushing your teeth.

Once you register online at, a buccal (cheek) swab kit will be mailed directly to your home with clear instructions and a return envelope.

A buccal swab looks like a long Q-tip. The top of the swab is rubbed on the inside of the cheek to collect epithelial cells (loose cheek cells). The buccal swab has become the standard sample collection method for DNA testing because it is safe and painless. When it reaches our labs, the DNA will be extracted for Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) typing from the specimen, and your information will be entered into our database.

The buccal swab project was successfully piloted in British Columbia last fall and rolled out nationally in February 2008.

/\ Top

Why are your procedures for registering so strict?

In addition to ensuring the safety of the stem cells transfused into a patient OneMatch wants to ensure that the donor is going to be able to give to the recipient.

Recipients awaiting a stem cell transplant, such as a cancer patient, receive intensive chemotherapy with or without radiation before the transplant in an attempt to kill all cancerous cells. But this procedure also destroys the patient's own stem cells and immune system.

If a potential donor changes his or her mind about donating bone marrow once the recipient has prepared for the transplant, the recipient could die.

OneMatch is also accredited by the World Marrow Donor Association, the gold standard in ensuring that stem cell donation a safe procedure for both donors and recipients.

/\ Top

Will those who join be able to direct their donation to a specific recipient?

No. Joining OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network means you are committed to helping any patient, anywhere in the world. This is the same commitment that volunteer donors around the world have made. It is this commitment that allows us access to more than 12.5 million donors worldwide.

Less than 30 per cent of patients will find a match in their own family, while the remaining patients must rely on unrelated volunteers. By joining OneMatch, you are increasing the possibility of a match for these patients in Canada and around the world.

The OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network must increase the diversity of the database to better reflect the ethnic background of millions of Canadians in case they ever require a stem cell transplant.

/\ Top

Are donors permitted to donate twice to the same recipient?

Yes. Following the first donation, the donor will be asked whether he or she is willing to consider such a request. If the donor meets the physical health and age requirements and agrees to consider this option, he or she will be approached with the request should a second transplant be necessary. Although second donations do not occur frequently, OneMatch has facilitated a number of second transplants over the years. Once a donor makes two stem cell donations (either bone marrow and/or peripheral blood stem cells), he or she is removed from the OneMatch database.

/\ Top

Can I meet the person I donate to?

OneMatch policies are such that a donor and recipient cannot meet until one year after a successful transplant. After one year, if the donor and the recipient both want to get in touch with each other, OneMatch will provide the contact information to both parties.

/\ Top

How large is the database?

More than 237,000 donors are currently registered in Canada, and about 12.5 million donors are registered worldwide.

/\ Top

Why did you change the name from the Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry?

The Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry (UBMDR) has changed its name to OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network to increase awareness and underscore the point that anyone can be the potential "one match" that makes a life-saving difference.

The development of the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network name was based on extensive research that included focus group testing across the country and online surveying. The new visual identity ranked highest for representing an organization that matches donors with patients/recipients; helps save lives; is professional, national and trustworthy; and would cause Canadians to seek more information about the organization.

/\ Top

Do I need to re-register under this new name?

If you registered under the Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry, your name is still in our database and there is no need to re-register for the program.

/\ Top

Learn More
Learn More
About Stem Cells
Diseases Treated
How Does Matching Work?
Stem Cell Transplant
Myths About Stem Cell Donation
About OneMatch
Frequently Asked Questions
Contact Us
How To Swab

Top of the page Privacy and Access to Information | Terms of Use | Copyright © 1998-2014 Canadian Blood Services. All rights reserved.