NEW YORK, July 31, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- New York Blood Center has partnered with Be The Match, America's Bone Marrow Registry, to help find a bone marrow match for Jeralene Ares, a young Rhode Island girl diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. Jeralene's best chance for a cure is a hematopoietic stem cell transplant from a Latino donor with a similar ethnic background.
The Ares family has also been working with the Rhode Island Blood Center to find a match, but previous drives have been unsuccessful. Latinos and other minority groups are underrepresented in the bone marrow registry and, therefore, have a more difficult time finding a compatible donor. In an effort to increase Jeralene's odds of finding a successful match, her family traveled from their home in Rhode Island to New York City in May 2015.
New York Blood Center organized a special blood and bone marrow registration drive to help support Jeralene near her extended family in Washington Heights, which has a large Dominican community. More than 70 people joined the registry, and tests are currently being performed to determine a match. Meanwhile, the Ares family has begun organizing a similar bone marrow registry drive in Puerto Rico later this summer.
Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease that causes some normally disc-shaped red blood cells to become crescent-shaped, clump together and block blood flow. Since infancy, Jeralene has battled debilitating joint pain and flare-ups caused by the disease. She is also at risk for a shortened life expectancy.
Red blood cells are produced by hematopoietic stem cells within bone marrow. When a patient with sickle cell anemia has a transplant of healthy stem cells and bone marrow, they may begin producing normal blood cells.
New York Blood Center and Be The Match have been partners since 1989. NYBC assists in the recruitment and management of unrelated volunteer bone marrow donors. To date, NYBC has added more than 240,000 donors to the registry and helped more than 1,400 donors donate life-saving bone marrow or stem cells to patients.
Patients with blood diseases and cancers, such as sickle cell anemia and leukemia, rely on both blood and bone marrow donors to treat their disease. Thousands of people are diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disease or blood cancer each year. 70% of these patients must rely on a match from the National Bone Marrow Program because they do not have a family match. Increasing the donor registry is critical, as 6 out of 10 patients are still unable to find a compatible donor. Blood donors can join the bone marrow donor registry before or after they donate blood. Registering takes only a few minutes and consists of a registration form and a cheek swab. Donors must be between 18 and 55 years of age to register. Potential bone marrow donors can learn more at BeTheMatch.com.
About New York Blood Center:
Now more than 50 years old, New York Blood Center (NYBC) is one of the largest independent, community-based blood centers in the country. NYBC's mission is to serve the 20 million people in the New York metropolitan area—and more broadly, our nation and our world—by alleviating human suffering and preserving human life.
Each year, NYBC provides approximately one million blood products to nearly 200 hospitals in the Northeast. NYBC also provides a wide array of transfusion-related medical services. NYBC is also home to the world's largest public cord blood bank, which provides stem cells for transplant in many countries, and a renowned research institute, which – among other milestones – developed the Hepatitis B vaccine and innovative blood purification technology.
SOURCE New York Blood Center