WASHINGTON — The American Red Cross said Thursday that it is establishing the first national bone marrow registry to match healthy donors with people who need marrow transplants.
Dr. Alfred Katz, Red Cross vice president for research and development, said the national registry in St. Paul, Minn., will build on a regional operation already established in Minnesota.
It will be financed by a $3.4-million federal contract and initially will draw on the bone marrow donor files of 31 Red Cross blood regions and 23 non-Red Cross organizations.
The registry should be under way early next year, Katz said, with an initial goal of more than 50,000 typed volunteer donors on file.
"The registry has the capability of greatly increasing the number of bone marrow transplants now being performed," Katz said. "The program will make transplantation a viable option for thousands of patients with leukemia and bone marrow failure that has been impossible up to now."
Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside bones that produces red and white blood cells. Damaged or diseased marrow threatens life.
Leukemia victims sometimes are treated with massive radiation doses to kill diseased marrow, then need a marrow transplant. Victims of radiation sickness, such as those from the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident in the Soviet Union, also would need marrow transplants.