Stem cell donors needed to boost aging registry

Stem cell donors needed to boost aging registry

Young Australians are being asked to sign up as blood stem cell donors this World Marrow Donor Day to boost declining donor numbers and better meet patient demand.

Despite 175,000 people being registered as stem cell and bone marrow donors in Australia an aging population and advances in testing technology means just 24 per cent are suitable.

Australian Red Cross Lifeblood hopes to sign up 10,000 new donors to the registry over the next 12 months and is encouraging anyone aged 18-35 to join.

Lifeblood Executive Director of Donor Experience Cath Stone said stem cell transplants were often the best treatment for patients with blood cancers and some immune diseases and genetic disorders.

“Around half of patients will find their best match within their family. For patients who can’t find a family match, they rely on volunteer donors from the registry. Right now, just 20 per cent of non family donations given to Australian patients are donated in Australia, with the remaining 80 per cent coming from overseas donors.

By increasing the number of people on the registry, we’re increasing the chances of patients finding their life-saving match.”

Ms Stone said increasing the ethnic diversity and reducing the average age of people on the registry was a big focus.

“The current panel of donors has minimal ethnic diversity, which creates a real challenge for patients from non-European backgrounds as they’re more likely to match with donors with a similar ethnicity,” Ms Stone said.

“An aging donor panel is also less than ideal, because patients have a greater chance of survival if they receive donations from younger donors.

“Clinicians also prefer male donors because it reduces the risk of post-transplant complications, but currently only four per cent of the existing donor panel are males aged 18-35 years, so we really need more young men to step up and help out.”

World Marrow Donor Day, which falls on Saturday, also provides an opportunity to thank all of Australia’s stem cell and bone marrow donors.

“In the past 12 months, 119 generous people donated their stem cells or bone marrow, giving that same number of patients a second chance at life,” Ms Stone said.

“Donating stem cells is a truly selfless and lifechanging act, and we’re incredibly grateful to all these donors who have provided this gift of life and can’t wait to welcome onto the registry more donors who want to give patients in our community another chance at life.”

Donating blood stem cells is a lot like donating plasma with a couple of extra steps. If you’re identified as a match, the stem cell donation is made in hospital as an outpatient.

To join the registry at a Lifeblood Donor Centre, book a blood or plasma donation and a sample will be taken at your donation and used to match donors to patients. Call 13 14 95, visit or download the Donate Blood App to book a donation. Donors can also join the registry using a cheek swab. For more information, visit