Why we will always need more donors

When I first started thinking about finding ways to increase stem-cell and marrow donor recruitment I was thinking primarily in terms of increasing the pool of potential matches, especially for those with less-common HLA types. After all, many bone marrow drives focus around finding matches for specific people unable to find matches within existing registries.

While doing some searching today, however, I came across a journal article [pdf] published in Bone Marrow Transplantation that pointed out something that, while common sense, wasn't immediately obvious: As registered donors age, they will eventually exceed the age limits of the registry (often 50) and be excluded as a potential donor. The article also points out that some studies have shown increased effectiveness/survivability for donations from younger donors. I know, in my case, the fact that my donor was a a strapping young lad (apparently) was viewed as a positive factor.

In addition, there is apparently some evidence that very young donors more often withdraw their consent to donate than older donors. This, of course, creates even greater pressure to recruit donors from younger age groups. It also suggests there may be opportunities for education amongst younger donors to alieviate some of the concerns that might result in the removal of consent.

This raises the question about the most effective recruitment strategies. I have seen a number of workplace-based efforts and traditional fundraising events for recuitment, but these would tend to favour recruitment of established, working-age (perhaps 30+) donors, rather than younger donors. Given the need for young donors, perhaps there are opportunities for more effectively targeted education and recruitment of high school and university students. I can say this hadn't occurred to me until now, so there may be a number of these efforts underway already.

It will be interesting to see what is being done, or to give some thought to what could be done. Look for updates soon.