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24 Jan 2018 8:58
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  •   Home > News > Politics

    NZ bone marrow registry needs more donors

    New Zealand needs more Maori and Pasifika bone marrow donors and the good news is blood service boss Sam Cliffe says it doesn't mean needles in bones anymore.

    Gone are the days where a bone marrow donation meant giant needles inserted into bone, but New Zealand is still light on donors.

    It's still a long procedure - all of a patient's blood is removed from their body and put through a filter to collect cells - but it's much simpler and more pain free than the old days, blood service boss Sam Cliffe says.

    Just 2.5 per cent of New Zealanders are blood donors and an even smaller portion of those are on the bone marrow register.

    Ms Cliffe says they're hoping to convert blood donors into bone marrow donors too, and are focused particularly on people with Maori and Pasifika ancestry.

    "Maori and Pasifika are very under-represented on the bone marrow registry here nationally but also internationally," she said.

    "We work internationally with other bone marrow registries around the world and certainly if somebody has a Polynesian background it's very hard to find a bone marrow match."

    Unlike blood donations, which are given to patients in New Zealand, marrow can go to patients worldwide.

    In one instance, New Zealand was asked to match marrow for a patient in Paris with French Polynesian ancestry.

    Fortunately for that patient a match was found in New Zealand.

    The other perk for bone marrow donors is that they may never actually be called to donate.

    "You may never get called, you may never get a match, but if you do get a match it's a wonderful thing," she said

    If they are called donors do have to go through a procedure and while it's long, it's pretty straightforward.

    "I think people still have the old fashioned idea that somebody's going to stick horribly large needles in you and take pieces of your bone marrow out - that's not what happens at all," Ms Cliffe said.

    "We take out all of your blood, we spin it and we take out those stem cells ... that are formed in your bone marrow. It's a bit like a long blood donation, no needles in bones."


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