Register to donate stem cells

Start your registration process 

Before you register to become a stem cell donor, it’s important to understand what’s involved. Be sure to review our donor eligibility and stem cell registration information below. When you’re ready, complete our online knowledge test and register to donate.  

Step 1

Read and acknowledge the information below for new registrants.

Step 2

Take our Knowledge Test about stem cells and stem cell donation. 

Step 3

Create a personal profile on blood.ca and click Register now to become a stem cell donor. 

Step 4

Complete the online Health Screening Questionnaire.

Step 6

If there are no further questions, you will be sent a buccal swab kit in the mail. This kit contains a swab to be used to collect DNA samples from insides of your mouth.

Step 7

Your final step involves completing the swabbing kit per the instructions provided and return the buccal swab kit in the postage-paid envelope. You will be notified when you are officially part our Stem Cell Network. The next call you get could be to help save a life. 

Stem cell registration information

 
Understanding the donor search.

The decision to begin a search for a suitable unrelated donor rests entirely with the transplant centre. Our mandate is to coordinate the search and subsequent donation of an unrelated volunteer donor. All volunteer donors must meet a variety of eligibility requirements and undergo a comprehensive health assessment to ensure that the donation process will be safe for them and anyone receiving their stem cells.

Within one business day of receiving the request, the stem cell network forwards a preliminary search report of possible matches to the transplant team. This report lists any potential Canadian and international donors who might be a match to a patient. These potential donors are contacted for further health assessment and to provide DNA samples for additional testing. It is important to remember that each patient not only needs a matched donor, but also a well-informed, committed and healthy donor. On average, it can take up to six months to complete the necessary testing and health assessment screening to confirm the best matched donor.

The search is repeated continuously, so that any newly added donors may be identified. The search process continues until a donor is found and makes a stem cell donation or until the transplant team makes a decision to cancel the search request. Please note that it is not the responsibility of you or your family to find your donor. Your transplant team, working with Canadian Blood Services, is responsible for locating a matched, committed donor for you.

What is Canadian Blood Services’ Stem Network?

Canadian Blood Services’ Stem Cell Network, also known as the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, belongs to an international network of registries with over 23 million donors in more than 70 registries from participating countries around the world. By making donor data available worldwide, international registries have significantly increased the odds of finding a matching donor for any patient anywhere in the world. 

  

In April 2019, the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network name will officially change to Canadian Blood Services’ Stem Cell Registry. Our registry will continue to operate according to international standards established by the World Marrow Donor Association (WMDA) -- the international organization that promotes the ethical, technical, medical and financial aspects of stem cell transplantation. 

What are stem cells and what is a stem cell transplant?

Stem cells are immature cells that can become red blood cells (which carry oxygen), white blood cells (which fight infection) or platelets (which help stop bleeding). In a stem cell transplant, a patient's diseased bone marrow is replaced with healthy stem cells from a donor. To prepare for the transplant, the recipient is usually given high doses of radiation or chemotherapy to destroy the diseased marrow. Without the ability to manufacture life-giving blood cells, the recipient is extremely vulnerable at this point. He or she will not survive unless the donation proceeds. Once healthy stem cells are collected from the donor, they are given intravenously to the recipient as soon as possible.

What diseases are treated with stem cell transplants?

A variety of diseases and disorders are treated with stem cell transplants, including blood-related diseases such as leukemia, aplastic anemia, and inherited immune system and metabolic disorders.

What is a matching donor?

Donors and patients are matched according to the compatibility of inherited genetic markers called human leukocyte antigens (HLA). These antigens are inherited from your parents. Up to 12 antigens are considered important in the matching process. The best transplant outcome happens when a patient and donor’s HLA typing closely match.

Is there a matching donor for every patient who needs a stem cell transplant?

Even with millions of donors on registries worldwide, a perfect stem cell match isn't always a guarantee. Some patients have uncommon antigens that may be very difficult to match. In these instances, even with everyone's best efforts, it may not be possible to find a donor. We are committed to building the diversity of its database by increasing the number of potential donors with diverse antigens.

How do I register?

Once you have read through the stem cell registration information, you will be asked to complete a quick Knowledge Test. Being an informed donor is a vital part of the process. You will be asked 10 true-or-false questions to ensure you have a basic understanding of stem cell donation. Next, you’ll be required to create a personal profile on blood.ca, complete the Health Assessment Questionnaire, and accept the Notice to One Match Registrants and Consent to Participate. At that point, we’ll mail you a buccal swab kit (to collect cell samples from your mouth). We may be in touch by phone if we have questions about your health assessment or your registration information. Please note that your final eligibility rests with our staff. Once you receive your buccal swab kit, swab the inside of your cheek and mail it back. After we process your kit and obtain your HLA typing, you will be fully registered.

Can I be tested specifically for my relative?

Your relative's transplant physician is responsible for finding potential matches within your family—and for arranging testing. When you register to donate stem cells, you can be matched to any patient and bring hope to families anywhere in Canada or around the world.

Can I be tested specifically for my friend?

It is highly unlikely that two friends will share the same genetic profile. The best hope for any patient lies with potential donors already listed worldwide. However, as long as you are willing to donate to any patient and you meet the program's eligibility requirements, you can register to donate stem cells.

What happens if I'm a match?

Being a match is an exciting experience, but it is still only a first step. Your blood needs to undergo additional testing to determine the full extent of your compatibility. And you will also need to be tested for transmissible diseases. If you are selected to donate, a Canadian Blood Services registered nurse will guide you through each step of the process. You will be required to complete a physical examination and routine medical tests—possibly including a chest x-ray and electrocardiogram as well as blood and urine analyses—to make sure you are healthy and physically able to be a donor. During this time, you should address any concerns you may have. If you agree to proceed, the patient will be notified and the elimination of his or her diseased bone marrow will begin.

What if I say no?

You are free to decline to donate at any point in the process. Your decision will be confidential. However, it is important to be aware that there is a serious risk of death to the patient if you decide to withdraw after his or her radiation or chemotherapy treatment has begun. You will be told in advance exactly when the patient will start this treatment and given every opportunity to decline before that date.

If you withdraw your registration, all of your personal information collected up to the date of your withdrawal will remain in the network but no further personal information will be collected or added to your record. Once you have withdrawn, your personal information will no longer be used to match you with a patient who requires a transplant. Canadian Blood Services may continue to use or disclose information from your personal information as part of a pool of data that does not identify you.

How does a stem cell donation work?

Method one: Stimulated peripheral blood stem cell donation 

One way to donate stem cells is through your circulating blood (also called peripheral blood). To increase the number of stem cells in your blood, you will receive injections of a drug called granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) every day for four to five days prior to the donation. The stem cells are then collected using a procedure called apheresis, where your blood is drawn through a needle and passed through a machine. The stem cells are then separated from the rest of your blood, and the remaining blood is returned back into your body through another needle. This is a non-surgical procedure. 

Method two: Bone marrow stem cell donation 

Bone marrow stem cell donation is a surgical procedure performed under anesthesia. The collection physician will use special hollow needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bones. The procedure usually lasts 45 to 90 minutes, and includes blood along with the stem cells from your bone marrow—from under 0.5 litres to as much as 1.5 litres depending on your size and the size of the recipient.  

Are there risks involved?

Method one: Stimulated peripheral blood stem cell donation. 

Apheresis is common and used for regular plasma and platelet donations. Its risks are minimal. During the procedure you may feel cold: blankets are provided to ensure your comfort. All of the known risks will be explained to you by one of our nurses, as well as the physician overseeing the collection of your stem cells. It's important to keep a list of any questions you may have and to ensure you're comfortable with the answers as you meet with the various health care professionals. 

Method two: Bone marrow stem cell donation 

Experience has shown that bone marrow donation is safe. There are some risks associated with anesthesia, varying according to the type of anesthesia you receive. Infection at the site of the bone marrow collection is very rare and can be treated with antibiotics. Nerve, bone or other tissue damage is also very rare and may require additional medical treatment. All of these risks will be explained during your meeting with the physician collecting the bone marrow. 

What are the short-term side effects?

Method one: Stimulated peripheral blood stem cell donation 

If you're donating peripheral blood stem cells, the possible short-term side effects from the drug used to stimulate the production of stem cells (G-CSF) include mild to moderate bone pain, muscle pain, headaches, flu-like symptoms, nausea and vomiting, and redness or pain at the injection site. These will normally subside 24 to 48 hours after your donation. The long-term side effects of the drug are unknown at this time. 

Method two: Bone marrow stem cell donation 

You can expect to experience some fatigue after donating bone marrow. You'll likely also feel some soreness where the needle was inserted, which donors describe as being like the soreness that comes from hard exercise or a fall on the ice. Some donors also experience discomfort from the breathing tube used during the procedure. These side effects usually last for a few days, though some people may experience them for several weeks. Many bone marrow donors are released from the hospital the same day they undergo the collection procedure. Most need to take several days off work and avoid strenuous activity for at least two to three weeks, which is approximately how long it takes to regenerate the donated bone marrow. 

Does it cost me anything to register?

No. Registration is free and you won't be charged for any part of the testing or donation process. Canadian Blood Services reimburses any expenses you incur as a result of donating stem cells. For example, if you have to go to another city for the procedure, we cover travel and accommodation costs for you and a companion. While the procedure and recovery will take you away from work for a short time, experience has shown that most employers are willing to give sick time or paid leave to stem cell donors.

What is the outlook for patients who receive stem cell transplants?

Transplant outcome depends on many factors, including the level of compatibility between the donor and the recipient, the stage of the disease, the type of disease, the age of the recipient and the age of the donor. While there are no guarantees for the patient, a transplant may be the best hope of returning to good health.

Do registered donors ever get to know the recipients they are helping?

Exchange of information between donor and recipient is not permitted for at least one year after the transplant. Some registries will allow correspondence after one year has passed, while others never permit any exchange of information. We will let you know about the policy in your recipient's program one year following the transplant.

What happens if I move after I register?

It is very important that you let us know when your contact information changes. This can be done by calling us toll free at 1 888 2 DONATE (1 888 236-6283). You can also set up an account with us and update your profile anytime.  If you already have a profile, just log in. We also appreciate being advised if your health status has changed in a way that may affect your eligibility to donate.

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