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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
Blood Cell Transplant

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Searching for a Marrow Donor or Cord Blood Unit

Healthy cells used in a bone marrow transplant or umbilical cord blood transplant (also called a BMT) can be from your own blood-forming cells (autologous) or those of a marrow donor or umbilical cord blood unit (allogeneic).

If your doctor determines that you need an allogeneic transplant, he or she will look for a donor in your family that matches your HLA tissue type. HLA stands for human leukocyte antigen, a marker your immune system uses to recognize which cells belong in your body and which do not.

HLA tissue types are inherited, so your best chance of finding a match is with a brother or sister. However, 70 percent of patients do not have a suitable donor in their family. If you do not have a donor in your family, your doctor can search for a marrow donor or cord blood unit.

The registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, also called the Be The Match Registry®, is a listing of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units. The registry is operated under Federal contracts by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP).

Find more information about The Search Process, including when your doctor may begin to search a listing of more than 24.5 million potential marrow donors and more than 622,000 cord blood units throughout the world.

Learn how patients who need a transplant are being given hope by the Be The Match Registry.

It can take a few weeks to a few months or more to find a marrow donor or cord blood unit. However, sometimes a matching marrow donor or cord blood unit cannot be found. If your doctor cannot find a suitable match for you, he or she will look at other treatment options.

Sometimes, family and friends want to help by finding more donors. Be The Match can help with donor recruitment efforts.

When friends or family want to help find more donors, see Host a Donor Drive.