Bone marrow transplantation, also known as stem cell transplant, is a form of treatment that replaces the unhealthy bone marrow with stem cells from a healthy bone marrow.
Why is the bone marrow important? The bone marrow is a soft and spongy bone tissue that is present in certain bones in the body such as the hip and thigh bones. It contains stem cells, which convert into blood cells, including:
- The white blood cells that fight infections in the body.
- The red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body
- Blood platelets that cause blood clotting during bleeding
Bone marrow transplants are usually administered to people suffering from:
- Blood cancers such as chronic myeloid leukemia and lymphoma
- Bone marrow and blood diseases such as anemia and thalassemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Immune deficiency diseases
- Genetic diseases like sickle cell disease
Cancer and other diseases prevent the stem cells from growing normally, which affects the blood cells that they produce. Bone marrow transplant supplies fresh bone marrow stem cells, which in turn, generates healthy blood cells.
How the transplant works for cancer patients
Depending on the type of disease, doctors recommend either of the following types of bone marrow transplants:
- Autologous transplant (or AUTO transplant), in which the stem cells from the patient are using during the transplant.
- Allogeneic transplant (or ALLO transplant), in which the patient gets their stem cells from a donor.
ALLO transplants are mostly recommended for cancer patients, and comprise of the following 4 steps:
- Collection of the stem cells from your donor.
During this procedure, the donor is given injections that can increase their white blood cells. Some donors also give their stem cells in the operating room.
Before the transplant, the patient is administered high levels of chemotherapy or radiation. This is required to destroy all the unhealthy stem cells in the patient’s bone marrow. Chemotherapy also suppresses the immune system, so that it does not attack the new stem cells after the transplant. This procedure usually lasts for 5 to 7 days.
- Stem cell transfusion
This step involves the actual transfusion of the donor’s stem cells into the patient’s blood using a catheter. The healthy stem cells are injected into the patient’s blood using an intravenous tube, which then navigates into the bone marrow to grow and form healthy blood cells. Stem cell transfusion is completed within an hour.
The recovery step for the patient typically includes taking antibiotics or medication to prevent graft-vs-host diseases. If required, patients may take more blood transfusions through the catheter.
A successful bone marrow transplant can result in:
- Improvement in the blood count, which restores the number of white & red blood cells and blood platelets in the blood.
- Controlling the growth of the cancer cells
Bone marrow transplant or stem cell therapy in India
Bone marrow transplants can be performed at a number of renowned hospitals in India at costs ranging from 20 to 35 lakhs.
PSTakeCare provides recommendations for the best hospitals and healthcare facilities in India, which perform successful bone marrow transplants. You can use the website to directly book an online doctor appointment at the hospital of your choice.