In the seconds it takes to swab the inside of your cheek - just like the forensic investigators on CSI - you could be steps closer to saving a life. The OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network is making it easier for potential stem cell donors to join the network as we launch our first-ever national awareness week today in British Columbia.

Until now, becoming a stem cell donor meant taking a blood test. Not any more. From now on, registering to help Canadians suffering from such life-threatening illnesses as leukemia, lymphoma or Sickle-Cell disease is as simple and painless as brushing your teeth.

Once you register online at onematch, a buccal swab kit will be mailed directly to your home with clear instructions and a return envelope. When it reaches our labs, the DNA will be extracted for HLA typing from the specimen, and your information will be entered into our database. The buccal swab project is being piloted in B.C. and is intended to roll out nationally later this year.

"Sometimes the best solutions are simple ones," says Beverly Campbell, Director, OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network. "Trying to find a stem cell match is sometimes like looking for a needle in a haystack. And while every effort is made to find each and every patient a donor, sometimes we are not successful. That is why we need more Canadians to be willing and able to register and to be available to save a life when they get the call. The bigger the donor pool, the increased odds of finding a match."

As well as making the registration process easier, the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network also must diversify the ethnic base of potential donors. Today if you are a Black, Chinese, South Asian or Filipino patient in need of a stem cell transplant, your chances of finding a donor are not as good as they could be because we simply do not have enough available donors from these groups - and it is more likely that you will find your donor from your own community. Whereas if you are Caucasian, you have about a 75 per cent chance of finding a donor.

Canada's 220,000 strong potential donor base does not reflect the ethnic diversity that makes up the growing population of Canada. Medical experts know certain diseases are more prevalent in specific ethno-cultural groups. And since blood types are inherited, the best match for these patients is people with the same genetic background but related matches are not common. In fact there is a 70% chance a patient in need will rely on a stranger to help save their life. Research also has found stem cells and bone marrow from younger donors offers patients the best chance of long-term survival.

In light of this, Canadian Blood Services has partnered with HipHopCanada to help launch our awareness week and inspire young, ethnically diverse Canadians to join OneMatch. About ten DJs and artists are performing at the Metropolis at Metrotown mall today at 1:00p.m. to encourage the young people gathered to register.

"We need to make a difference," says Jesse Plunkett, President of HipHopCanada. "Our friend DJ Nick Schilbach - or "Schilly" to his friends - was taken from us at the young age of 22. He wanted us to help make sure that all Canadians have a fair chance for life-saving stem cells no matter their ethnic background. By joining, as I have, you are taking the first step towards saving a life."

About us

Canadian Blood Services is a national, not-for-profit charitable organization that manages the blood supply in all provinces and territories outside of Quebec and oversees the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network (previously known as the Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry, UBMDR). A dedicated team of about 4,800 staff and 17,000 volunteers enable us to operate 40 permanent collection sites and more than 20,000 donor clinics annually. Canadian Blood Services is a non-governmental organization, however the Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Health provide operational funding, and the federal government, through Health Canada, is responsible for regulating the blood system.

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