Why your heritage can make all the difference...
Each year, many patients are diagnosed with leukaemia or other serious blood disorders. These diseases prevent the blood cells from maturing and functioning properly. For many of these patients a bone marrow transplant is the best and only hope for a cure.
Your ethnic background plays an important role in bone marrow donation. The bone marrow donor and the patient must have matching tissue types. Because tissue types are inherited, the patient is most likely to match someone in their close family, like a brother or a sister. The closer the tissue types match, the better the chances of a successful transplant.
However, only one in three patients has a matched (tissue type) family member. If a match is not found in the family, the search is passed onto the NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry, which uses databases from NZ and around the world to find a matched, unrelated bone marrow donor. The patient is now most likely to match someone of the same ethnicity.
European patients have access to over 9 million Europeans on worldwide registries, compared to the 6,000 Maori and Pacific Islanders on the NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Other ethnic groups are also not as well represented, especially Indians and others from small minority groups worldwide.
It is for this reason the NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry was established and has made a commitment to focus on actively enrolling people of Maori and Pacific Island ancestry.
NZ is one of the most culturally diverse countries with the highest proportion of Polynesian people in the world. With changes in the NZ population we are also recruiting people of other NZ ethnic minority groups such as Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian, to become volunteer bone marrow donors.