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Ethnicity Matters: Why Having a Diverse Donor Pool is Important in Registry

Nov 11, 2011 by Gift of Life News

When it comes to donating bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC), ethnic diversity is extremely important. Patients suffering from life-threatening diseases like lymphoma and leukemia often need a bone marrow transplant, and they rely on someone with a similar tissue type to be their perfect match. Tissue type is encoded into a person’s DNA and is, therefore, hereditary. That is why a patient's best chance of finding a genetic match lies with those of similar ethnic or racial ancestry. That is also why increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the worldwide bone marrow registry is crucial to finding matches for all patients in need, particularly those who have a unique ethnic background, such as Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, African-American, or a multi-cultural background.

However, it is a sad fact that the ethnic population in the donor registry is underdeveloped. Because they are underrepresented, those particular patients who are searching for a match will have greater difficulty finding a donor. While Caucasians represent 73% of the worldwide donor pool, the statistics for other ethnic backgrounds are startlingly low; 9% are of Hispanic or Latino origin; 8% are African-American or Black; 7% are Asians; 3% are Multi-racial; and only 1% are Native American/ Alaskan Natives.

When Gift of Life’s Founder and Executive Director, Jay, was searching for his match, he was told by his doctors that he would need to find a donor who had a similar ethnic background in order to have a chance at survival. However, the worldwide donor registry was severely low on Ashkenazi Jews, Jay’s own ethnicity. His family and friends didn’t want to see him die needlessly, so they launched an ambitious grassroots donor recruitment campaign, resulting in the enrollment of tens of thousands of new donors in the worldwide bone marrow registry.

Gift of Life’s mission is to find a match Anytime. Anywhere. For Anyone. We want to ensure that everyone who needs a bone marrow transplant will have an opportunity to find a matching donor. That is why it is important for those with a diverse ethnic background to join the registry. It’s simple: Ethnicity matters. If you haven’t yet and are eligible to donate, please consider joining the bone marrow registry. It’s easy, and you can do it from the comfort of your home by ordering a swab kit here  If you have any questions, please call 1-800-9MARROW. If you swab your cheek, you could save a life..