What is a bone marrow transplant? What types of diseases can it treat?

The bone marrow transplant is a medical procedure performed to substitute impaired bone marrow (due to disease, infection or chemotherapy) with healthy bone marrow stem cells, which can be harvested from a donor or from the patient.

Typically, a bone marrow transplant procedure is performed in patients with blood cancers or any other disease that lay a severe impact on the structure and function of bone marrow. In fact, bone marrow transplant can be used to treat a variety of diseases including,

1. Aplastic anemia, a disorder wherein the creation of new blood cells in affected bone marrow ceases.

2. Cancers of bone marrow including leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

3.  Congenital neutropenia, an inherited disorder that results in chronic infections.

4. Neuroblastoma, where "neuro" means nerves, "blastoma" means cancer that has an effect on the developing or immature cells, is mostly seen in and around adrenal glands. Having said that, neuroblastoma can arise in areas such as the abdomen, chest, neck, spine too.

5. Sickle cells anemia, a genetic blood disorder that results in misshapen red blood cells.

6. Thalassemia, a genetic blood disorder that compels the human body to form hemoglobin in an abnormal form that remains an integral part of red blood cells.

7. Hurler's syndrome, a rare form of mucopolysaccharidosis type 1, lysosomal storage disorder can cause a wide range of problems that may include, skeletal abnormalities, respiratory issues, diminished life-expectancy period etc.

8. Adrenoleukodystrophy, a genetic abnormality that can destroy myelin leading to seizures and hyperactivity.

9. Immune deficiency disorder, a condition when the body loses its capability to combat infections and diseases efficiently.

How is a bone marrow transplantation procedure performed?

A bone marrow transplant can be performed in three ways as mentioned below,

1. Autologous bone marrow transplant: During this procedure, the patient's stem cells are eliminated prior to giving the high-dose chemotherapy, or radiation treatment. A freezer is used to store these stem cells. Following the chemotherapy or radiation procedure, the stem cells are put back in the patient's body to promote the creation of normal blood cells. Another type of autologous bone marrow transplant is an Umbilical cord blood transplant. Umbilical cord blood transplant is a procedure involves removal of a newborn baby's umbilical cord exactly after the birth. The stem cells collected are frozen and stored until the need for a transplantation arises. Since the umbilical cord blood cells are highly immature, there is less of a need for perfect matching.

2. Allogeneic bone marrow transplant: During  this procedure, stem cells are removed from another person, commonly called as a donor (preferably, the patient's brother sister, parents or closed relatives). In the majority of the cases, the donor's genes ought to match (at least partially) the genes of the patient.

3. Haploidentical transplant: Stems cells of a donor can be used even When the donor fails to match to the entire set of criteria with the help of haploidentical transplant procedure. Typically, this type of transplant is employed to amplify the pool of donors.

Is bone marrow transplant procedure affordable in India?

Yes, bone marrow transplant being executed at India's premium medical facilities is affordable; this is why people from across the world choose to come to India to seek this treatment.

The cost of autologous bone marrow transplant in India is USD 8715, the cost of allogenic bone marrow transplant is  USD 17430, the cost of a haploidentical transplant is USD 26145.

What influences the cost of a bone marrow transplant?

Though India offers bone marrow transplant treatment options at a fraction of the cost, there remains a multitude of determining factors that can influence the cost of the treatment including, patient's age, type and stage  of illness, occurrence of complications and comorbidities, type of bone marrow treatment procedure used, type of donor, diagnostic procedures employed, types of prescribed medications, and type of hospital where the treatment is being done.

Apart from this, increased stay in the hospital owing to reasons such as infections (bacterial, fungal and viral, development of Graft-versus-host disease and more can influence the cost of the procedure.

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