A young French father of two, who has been a Hong Kong resident for 20 years, has acute leukaemia and urgently requires a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, none of his family members is a match.
A 31-year-old woman in Singapore, whose condition has reached a critical state, is also seeking a bone marrow donor. Her siblings are not matches.
The chance of siblings (from the same parents) having a match is one in four. Among two unrelated people, having identical tissue types is as low as one in 100,000, according to the Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service.
The pool of donors in the Hong Kong Bone Marrow Donor Registry is very small at 76,027. That's just one per cent of the population, according to statistics from Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide, which co-ordinates an international registry.
Anyone healthy and between 18 and 60 years old can be a donor by registering at one of the seven blood donor centres in the city (no appointment required). It takes just 15 minutes and only five millilitres of blood is drawn. If you're a match and you eventually donate bone marrow, your health or immune status will not be affected. For details, go to ha.org.hk/rcbts.
Test your knowledge of bone marrow below.
1. What is bone marrow?
a. Spongy tissue found in the centre of large bones, such as the hip and thigh bones
b. Flexible connective tissue found in the joints between bones
c. Fibrous tissue that connects bones to other bones
2. Bone marrow contains immature cells called stem cells that can develop into ...
a. Red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body
b. White blood cells that fight infections
c. Platelets that help with blood clotting
3. Leukaemia is a cancer in which bone marrow ...
a. Doesn't make red blood cells
b. Makes abnormal white blood cells
c. Produces abnormal red blood cells
4. How much bone marrow is typically taken from donors?
a. 500 to 1,000ml
b. 1,000 to 1,500ml
c. 1,500 to 2,000ml
Answers: 1. a; 2. all are correct; 3. b; 4. a (about 2 per cent to 5 per cent of body's total bone marrow)