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While bone marrow transplants do not provide 100 percent assurance that the disease will not recur, a transplant can increase the likelihood of a cure or at least prolong the period of disease-free survival for many patients.

These blood cells include white blood cells (leukocytes), which fight infection; red blood cells (erythrocytes), which carry oxygen to and remove waste products from organs and tissues; and platelets, which enable the blood to dot In patients with leukemia, aplastic anemia, and some immune deficiency diseases, the stem cells in the bone marrow malfunction, producing an excessive number of defective or immature blood cells (in the case of leukemia) or low blood cell counts (in the case of aplastic anemia).

The immature or defective blood cells interfere with the production of normal blood cells, accumulate in the bloodstream and may invade other tissues.

(Page 12) Large doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation are required to destroy the abnormal stem cells and abnormal blood cells.

These therapies, however, not only kill the abnormal cells but can destroy normal cells found in the bone marrow as well.

In some cases, patients may be their own bone marrow donors.

This is called an autologous BMT and is possible if the disease afflicting the bone marrow is in remission or if the condition being treated does not involve the bone marrow (e.g.In 1991, more than 7,500 people underwent BMTs nationwide.Although BMTs now save thousands of lives each year, 70 percent of those needing a BMT using donor marrow are unable to have one because a suitable bone marrow donor cannot be found. The bone marrow in the breast bone, skull, hips, ribs and spine contains stem cells that produce the body's blood cells.In a successful transplant, the new bone marrow migrates to the cavities of the large bones, engrafts and begins producing normal blood cells.If bone marrow from a donor is used, the transplant is called an "allogeneic" BMT, or "syngeneic" BMT if the donor is an identical twin.In an allogeneic BMT, the new bone marrow infused into the patient must match the genetic makeup of the patient's own marrow as perfectly as possible.

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