Blood donation, marrow registry campaign strives for diversity

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- During Black History Month, three student organizations are working with the American Red Cross for the 10th annual Charles Drew Blood Donation Campaign: Alpha Phi Alpha, Delta Sigma Iota and the Black Caucus.

Blood donors and potential entrants into Delete Blood Cancer, the bone marrow registry, are needed to diversify the blood supply and the registry. The blood drive and bone marrow registry are scheduled 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 4, in the HUB-Robeson Center's Alumni Hall.  

The Charles Drew Blood Donation Campaign is named after Dr. Charles Drew who was a prominent African-American physician in American Red Cross history. He created the widespread system of blood banks that exists today. During Black History month, the American Red Cross honors him and his accomplishments, while encouraging members of the multicultural community to honor his work by becoming lifelong blood donors.

It is crucial that there is diversity within the national blood supply. Antigens, proteins found on the surface of a red cell, are more likely present or absent in certain ethnic groups. A blood recipient is more likely to match someone with the same racial background.

Certain medical conditions require large amounts of blood transfusions. Sickle cell anemia, which most often strikes the African-American community, requires regular blood transfusions. Patients suffering from cancers, bone marrow issues and leukemias are the leading users of blood and platelets. According to the American Red Cross about 18 percent of all transfusions go to these patients.

These blood drives are also THON drives. The American Red Cross will make a $4 donation for all presenting donors to the Four Diamonds fund, which helps to fight pediatric cancer. Each donor may designate the THON-registered student organizations to which this donation will be credited.

In the same way that donors of different ethnicities are needed to diversity the blood supply, Delete Blood Cancer, the national bone marrow registry, must also be diverse. According to the Headstrong Foundation, “An estimated 44,790 new cases of leukemia will be diagnosed in the United States this year.” For many, a marrow or blood stem cell transplant is the only cure. This may be the only hope of survival for these patients.

If someone needs a bone marrow transplant, the best match is much more likely to come from someone of the same ethnic background. As with blood, there are certain genetic markers that are more or less prevalent in different racial groups. As the number of matching markers increases, the better the chance that the bone marrow transplant will be successful.

Minority registrants are desperately needed in the registry. There are more than five and a half million people in the registry who are willing to donate marrow. However, the majority of these people are Caucasian. African-Americans only find an unrelated donor match 25 percent of the time, Hispanics are 45 percent. Minority patients have less chance of finding a suitable match.

Registration for Delete Blood Cancer will take place at the Charles Drew Blood Donation Campaign on Feb. 4. Entry to the registry is painless, requiring only a simple cheek swab.

Requirements are different for entering the registry than donating blood. Potential donors must weigh more than 110 pounds without a body-mass index exceeding 40. International students are eligible if they plan to be in the U.S. for at least 2 years. There are no travel restrictions or minimum blood iron levels. Potential donors can even be sick on the day of the registry. Those who are unable to donate blood may still be eligible to enter Delete Blood Cancer.

For more information about Delete Blood Cancer visit www.deletebloodcancer.org. Appointments are recommended to donate blood but are not necessary to enter the registry. To schedule an appointment to donate blood, visit www.psuredcross.org.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region serves blood donors, sponsors, patients and hospitals in 100 counties, and needs to collect about 700 units of blood and platelets a day to meet patient need in 81 hospitals. The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, visit redcross.org.

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Last Updated February 06, 2013