Editorial: Stem cells are in you to give

On Thursday at The Atrium and Friday at the University of Victoria, a Swab Mob will be on the hunt for young men.

On Thursday at The Atrium and Friday at the University of Victoria, a Swab Mob will be on the hunt for young men.

Police officers, fire fighters and athletes, among others, will be volunteering their DNA via a cheek swab for a cause that has flown largely under the radar.

The swabs will help boost the database of donors for the Canadian Blood Services OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, an organization that helps match people with leukemia and other diseases with stem cell donors.

Where blood and organ donation efforts have a relatively high profile through TV ads and media campaigns, being a potential stem cell donor hasn’t entered the consciousness of most Canadians.

Interestingly enough, of those who do donate, the vast majority are women. But what is needed are men between the ages of 17 and 35 – of many ethnic backgrounds – whose young stem cells are optimal for helping save the lives of people undergoing treatments for leukemia, bone marrow diseases and immune system disorders.

And in a society rightfully uncomfortable and suspicious about making medical distinctions along ethnic lines, OneMatch has no such qualms – stem cell matches among genetically similar groups gives people a better shot at survival.

Shelley Eaves with the Royal Bank of Canada and who needs a stem cell transplant for her leukemia, has done an admirable job at bringing this issue to light and to help break down myths and fears about stem cell donations. The effort also helps engender donating among a demographic underrepresented in giving stem cells and blood.

If you are a guy or a girl downtown on Thursday, drop into the Atrium to sign up (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) The same if you are near UVic’s McKinnon gym on Thursday for the  5:30 to 9 p.m., where you might set in motion the means to one day save somebody’s life.