S'pore Bone Marrow Register adjusts age limit for donors

SINGAPORE - The Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) today announced a revision in the age limit for volunteers to donate their bone marrow to non-related patients suffering from blood-related diseases.

With immediate effect, any donor on the register will now be eligible to donate up to the age of 60 years, from the previous age of 55, which brings the BMDP in line with major registers in the UK and the US.

BMDP, a Singapore charity, builds and manages Singapore's only register of volunteer bone marrow donors. It also provides a 365-day service to support the local transplant hospitals looking for a match for their patients.

The register currently has around 50,000 volunteer donors. Every year, BMDP works towards adding another 5,000 donors to increase the odds of finding a match - which currently stands at just one in 20,000 in the general population of the same racial group.

"Older adults today are fitter and more health-conscious, and by adding five years to the availability of each donor, we are providing a tremendous boost to our local register as a source of life-saving bone marrow or stem cells for transplant," said BMDP President Jane Prior.

Any person in good health and between the ages of 18 and 49 can be registered as a volunteer bone marrow donor.

All an interested donor needs to do is to provide a DNA sample through a cheek swab and consent to having their sample tissue-typed and added to the BMDP database.

Only if a donor is identified as a match for a patient, will they actually be asked to donate their bone marrow or blood stem cells.

Tissue-typing each donor costs $150, which is covered through public donations and fund-raising.

Therefore, the younger the donors are when they join the register, the longer the lifetime value they represent to the patients, BMDP said.

In the first six months of this year alone, more than 200 requests were submitted by the local hospitals to find a match for their patients.

Bone marrow or blood stem cells were delivered to 29 patients between January and July from donors sourced through the local BMDP register or from a partner register around the world.