blood donors

Blood Stem Cells Power Supply

Blood stem cells produce billions of new blood cells daily, providing the 3 blood cell types that sustain human life:

  • Oxygen-carrying red blood cells,
  • Clot-forming platelets that stop bleeding,
  • Disease-fighting white blood cells

Without constant new blood cell production, survival is threatened.

new blood cellsBlood Stem Cells Only Make More Blood Cells

Called hematopoietic blood stem cells [he-MA’-toe-poe-eh-tic ; hema- means ‘blood’], these cells are different to the other kinds of stem cells that become tissue and organs. Hematopoietic – blood – stem cells only make new blood cells.

Blood Cells Produced Daily in the Billions

Most people’s blood stem cells constantly replenish their blood cell levels. Daily, around 200 billion new red blood cells, 400 billion new platelets, and 10 billion new white blood cells power-up. For patients with cancer or other serious conditions, however, functioning blood cell levels can dangerously drop. When that happens, treatment hope lies with blood donors, not just bone marrow donors.

blood streamPeripheral Blood Stem Cells Circulate in Vessels

When blood stem cells leave the bone marrow and circulate, they become peripheral cells [peripheral means ‘in veins & arteries’]. NOW, these powerhouse stem cells and the new cells they make can be collected without going into the bone marrow.

Peripheral Blood Stem Cells & Lifesaving WBCs

All three types of blood cells are required for life, but white blood cells (‘WBCs’) especially are needed to help patients.

Cancer and cancer treatment itself can severely decrease white blood cells. When damaged blood stem cells are unable to make enough new WBCs daily, immune protection drops. Already sick patients become even more defenseless. To help, patients can receive small amounts of donated cells collected from a donor’s circulating blood. These cells are processed in medical laboratories for specific treatment purposes.

white blood cellsWhich White Blood Cells Are Needed?

One kind of needed white blood cell is lymphocytes. Its two main types are B lymphocytes & T lymphocytes. B lymphocytes make antibodies. T lymphocytes not only kill viruses, but also help regulate other white blood cells’ immune actions.

This makes lymphocytes a key to immune therapies for patients. Blood donors can provide a small number of vital lymphocytes to help develop new treatments, like CAR T-cell therapy. Donors also help patients too sick to produce sufficient levels of lymphocytes or use their own for treatment development.

Blood Donation Collection Methods

Regularly donated whole blood, red blood cells, and platelets vitally help patients that receive them by transfusion. Plasma – the fluid blood cells ‘float’ in – is also important to patients in treatment. Some blood components are donated the regular way. Others require a filtering device during donation. That’s the case with white blood cells.

Donating a small volume of white blood cells – and vitally needed lymphocytes – takes longer than regular whole blood donation. But it can help patients who receive it as a treatment or help by advancing research on innovative immune therapy techniques that are targeting specific types of cancer, autoimmune diseases, and even degenerative disorders.

White Blood Cell Donation Collection

A white blood cell donor’s blood is filtered by an apheresis [ah-fur-EE’-sis] device. This computerized machine captures some white blood cells / lymphocytes as they are drawn out and into the device by an IV in one arm. The majority of white blood cells and untargeted red blood cells & platelets continue moving through the apheresis machine and are returned back to the donor’s circulation by a second IV in the other arm.

apheresis process

Before a donor’s white blood cells are collected, the cells’ precise recipient is known and waiting to receive them. After donation is complete, the WBCs are swiftly processed in the donation laboratory according to their intended use. Because they are living cells, their laboratory care and transport is sophisticated and exacting.

These special cells go to medical treatment researchers and developers who use them to test the effectiveness and safety of new treatments or may modify & multiply the donated lymphocytes in the laboratory for direct patient care.

White blood cell donors uniquely help give patients hope now and future patients the potential for treatments that could lead to cures.

Learn more about being a white blood cell donor at

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