What Are Bone Marrow Stem Cells

Bone marrow is a soft tissue found in the middle of many large bones and is the center for blood regeneration. Its hematopoietic compartment contains almost 500 billion blood cells per day. The bone marrow also contains somatic or adult stem cell which has the capability of developing into different blood cell types found in our blood. The first successful bone marrow transplant was conducted in 1968. Since then, bone marrow cells are being routinely used in the treatment of a large variety of blood related disorders like blood cancers and many immune disorders. However, recently the stem cells from umbilical cord blood has replaced the use of bone marrow stem cells as these are found to be more effective in the treatment of the diseases and are comparatively very less painful.


Leukemia or the blood cancer is a disease in which the bone marrow cells produce abnormal functioning leukocytes. Leucocytes develop from the somatic stem cells like other blood cells are released into the blood stream and there they act as soldiers and fight against the infections. However, if these leukocytes begin to grow abnormally they cannot fight infection and are cancerous.

To treat this condition, the abnormal leukocyte need to be removed, replacing it with healthy cells which will grow in the bone marrow now. It is done by chemotherapy in which all the cancerous cells are killed by using some potent drugs. However, if the condition still cannot be improved than bone marrow transplant may be required.

The bone marrow transplant requires all the abnormal leukocytes to be killed by chemotherapy and radiation and then replacing it with healthy stem cells obtained from healthy matching donor. If the transplant is successful the healthy stem cells will migrate into the patient’s bone marrow and differentiate into leukocytes which will be healthy. There are less chance of graft versus host rejection since the donor is matched closely. The bone marrow stem cells generally used are of close relatives and if it’s from sibling is considered the best. The test used to match the cells is called the HLA typing. Humans have different sets of protein called human leukocyte associated protein on the surface of their cells. This test is done to make sure that the stem cells from the donor closely match that of the patient thus preventing any side effects. The bone marrow transplant requires donor to be anesthesia zed for the removal of bone marrow cells. The anesthesia condition poses some risk and the area which has been used to remove the bone marrow cells remain tight and sore for a few days.