What is bone marrow?
Bone marrow is the spongy tissue that fills the inside of some of your bones. Bone marrow is full of special cells called stem cells. These cells are very important to the body because they can develop into different kinds of cells depending on what your body needs. In bone marrow, stem cells usually develop into blood cells.
What does it do?
Bone marrow is the body’s manufacturing plant for blood. Stem cells inside the bone marrow develop into the different kinds of blood cells including red cells which carry oxygen, white cells that fight infections, and platelets that help with blood clotting. Blood cells normally work for a time then are replaced by the bone marrow as they wear out and die. If the bone marrow is not working correctly, the body does not have the ability to replace blood cells which causes the body to be weak and unhealthy.
Why do people need bone marrow donations?
There are a number of diseases that can cause the bone marrow to stop producing blood cells. Sometimes the stem cells in the marrow are faulty or are not able to develop into all the types of blood cells. Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow and causes it to produce abnormal white cells which are not able to fight infection correctly. Another disease called aplastic anemia prevents the bone marrow from producing red cells, which means the blood is not able to carry enough oxygen to keep body healthy.
Some people are born with bone marrow disorders and others develop problems with bone marrow later in life. Some of these conditions can be treated with medication. Sometimes people receive many blood transfusions to replace blood cells while doctors work to fix their overall condition. This is only a short-term solution because the bone marrow needs to be constantly producing new blood cells to replace cells in the blood.
Some treatments for cancer including chemotherapy and radiation can damage or even destroy the cells in the bone marrow. In this case, the only solution is to replace the marrow inside their bones. This is called a bone marrow transplant.