Stem cells


What is stem cell donation?

Stem cell donation, also called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, is a nonsurgical procedure. It helps patients with blood cancer or a blood disorder who need a lifesaving stem cell transplant. Donations take place at blood centres or outpatient hospital facilities.

What happens when I register?

The registration process includes completing a short application form and giving 2 or 3 cheek swabs. The cheek swabs allow the donor registries to determine your stem cell type. Once you’re registered, the UK Stem Cell Registry will look to see if you match with a patient.

How are stem cells donated?

There are two ways to donate stem cells.

Peripheral stem cell collection (the most common method; 90% of donors donate this way). This is to donate stem cells from the circulating blood. Four days preceding the donation a nurse will inject you with a drug which vastly increases the number of stem cells in your circulating blood. On the fifth day you will have a blood test to check that you have enough circulating stem cells. You will then be connected to a cell-separator machine, without the use for a general anaesthetic. The machine collects the stem cells from your blood via a vein in one arm, returning the blood to your body through a vein in your other arm. Occasionally you may be asked back on the sixth day for a further donation, if the dose of cells obtained is not sufficient.

Bone marrow collection. This involves the removal of stem cells from your hip bones. This is done using a needle and syringe under a general anaesthetic in hospital. Although this is not a surgical operation, there will be marks on the skin made by the needle. As there may be some discomfort where the needle has been inserted, you will need to stay in hospital for up to 48 hours and have a period of recovery at home of up to five days.

What are the risks of donating stem cells?

Stem cell donation is very safe. However, no medical procedure is entirely without risk. Both forms of stem cell collection mentioned on this website involve some temporary discomfort in you bones and any small risks involved will be fully explained before you donate.

Register as a stem cell donor

There are three stem cell registers in the UK that you can join. Whichever you choose, you’ll be registered until your 60th birthday.

Please make sure you select ACLT as your reason for registering with the below. This is important because it allows us to track the number of signups that come through our charity.

Anthony Nolan: if you are aged between 16 and 30 you can join this register by providing cheek swabs.

DKMS: if you are aged between 17 and 55 you can join this register by providing cheek swabs.

British Bone Marrow Register: if you are aged between 17 and 40 you can join this register by providing a blood donation.

Other ways to register

By appointment: you can register in person at our offices at 2A Garnet Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey, CR7 8RD. Please make an appointment in advance by calling +44 (0) 203 757 7700 or emailing

At a registration drive: come along to a registration drive and we’ll register in person. Check the public registration drive dates in advance.

If you are pregnant: you can help save a life by donating your baby’s umbilical cord. Please contact the NHS Blood & Transplant National Referral Centre on +44 (0) 800 432 0559.

Not ready to commit?

If you’re interested and you’d like to request more information, enter your details below. A member of our team will be in touch.

Not eligible?

Don’t worry. There are lots of ways you can get involved with our lifesaving work besides this, such as donating blood, getting involved with fundraising or setting up a regular financial donation.