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Sources of stem cell transplant

All blood cells originate from very primitive cells in the stem cells called stem cells. These stem cells grow and divide and mature into different types of blood. After engraftment, these cells will help your child’s body produce healthy blood cells. Stem cells are found in the bone marrow, peripheral blood and umbilical cord blood. While bone marrow, peripheral blood and umbilical cord blood are considered equal in most ways, there are differences between them. The choice of which source will be used for your child will be discussed with you by your attending doctor. 

Bone marrow. The bone marrow harvest is performed in the operating room. The donor is asleep using general anesthesia. A needle is inserted into the hip bone or "iliac crest" where a large amount of stem cells is located. The bone marrow is withdrawn through the needle with a syringe.  One or two punctures on each hip and multiple bone punctures are required to harvest the needed amount of stem cells.

Peripheral blood stem cells (PBSCs).  Peripheral blood stem cells are obtained by pheresis, using a special blood collection machine called a leukopheresis machine. Usually a special intravenous catheter (IV) is needed to allow blood to flow through the machine to collect the stem cells. If your child’s veins are not large enough to obtain an adequate blood flow, he/she may need to have a special temporary catheter placed for the collection process.

Umbilical Cord Blood (UCB). Umbilical cord blood is obtained from the umbilical cord and placenta after the birth of a baby. The OB/GYN doctor or delivery room nurse will aid in the collection of the cord blood. The collection does not affect the mother or child. The cells are frozen and then stored until an identical match is made with the product.