SA Bone Marrow Registry’s campaign will see a star named after a donor

Stem cells help rebuild a patient’s immune system, working as a cure for numerous blood cancers. File picture

Stem cells help rebuild a patient’s immune system, working as a cure for numerous blood cancers. File picture

Published Sep 6, 2022


Cape Town - The South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) is launching its out-of-this-world campaign ahead of World Marrow Donor Day on September 17.

This campaign will see a star being named after a lucky donor once the registry has reached 100 000 donor registrations.

According to the deputy director of the SABMR, Jane Ward, they consider each one of their almost 80 000 existing donors as stars.

“Much like stars that are born in the same cluster share similar chemical signatures, which help scientists track the stars they are related to, so our donor searches help us to find genetic twins among humans that share matching DNA, no matter where in the world they are.

“And just like a star falls to grant someone’s wish, people – whether it’s family, friends or strangers – make sacrifices to make that wish comes true. We are asking people to be a star in someone’s night sky by signing up to become a blood stem cell donor.

“We are intimately connected with the universe – even our bodies are said to have been made of many of the same elements that stars are made of – which is why we thought it apt to name a star after a donor once we hit the 100 000 mark. The figure is significant as it symbolises the odds of finding a match. Currently, the chances of finding a tissue match are around 1 in 100 000,” Ward said.

The SABMR has saved more than 600 South African lives; however, only 25% of these donors come from the country.

When no local matches are found, the organisation has to look abroad, which takes time and can be costly.

The SABMR has travelled across the globe to collect blood stem cells for South African patients in need of a transplant.

These stem cells help rebuild a patient’s immune system, working as a cure for numerous blood cancers.

“Our patients don’t have the luxury of time. They suffer from life-threatening illnesses such as leukaemia, lymphoma, aplastic anaemia and immune deficiency disorders that can claim their lives within the space of a few weeks or months.

“Less than half of blood stem cell transplants in the country are from donors in South Africa, while the vast majority have come from donors in Germany and America.

“Stem cell donations have also come from 25 other countries. If we had a larger local donor pool, patients could be helped sooner, thereby increasing their chances of survival,” Ward said.

The more donors added to the registry, the higher the probability of a patient finding a match.

“In an ideal world, there should be a local donor waiting and ready to go when a patient needs a transplant as is the case in many other countries,” Ward said.

According to Ward, in South Africa only 1% of the population are registered stem cell donors, compared with 13% in Cyprus, 12% in Israel, and 9% in Germany.

“This September, we want to make the world shine a bit brighter for those afflicted with blood disorders.

“To become eligible for the star-naming, you can sign up to become a donor online or at any of our drives. Who knows, you may become our 1 in 100 000 Stem Cell Star,” she added.

This month, the SABMR will be hosting various events across the country. These include physical donor drives, fun runs, celebrity-judged bake-offs and more.

For more information on these events and how you can get involved, visit or follow them on @sabonemreg.

Those between the ages of 16 and 45 who want to become a potential donor can contact the SABMR at 021 447 8638 or email [email protected].

Financial donations can also be made via

[email protected]