Douglas Mbang donating stem cells

Join the stem cell register

Every 14 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer. A stem cell transplant from a stranger – someone like YOU - can be their only hope. Join the stem cell register and you could help save a life.

Be the change - cure someone's blood cancer

Today, ethnicity can decide who survives blood cancer.

Everyone has a genetic profile. 41% of donors on our register have a unique genetic profile, meaning they do not have a match for a stem cell transplant.
This increases if you are from a minority ethnic background.

Genetically, patients in need of a lifesaving transplant are far more likely to match with stem cell donors of a similar ethnicity.

This is why we need you. Young people aged 16-30 and from a minority ethnic background, ready to join the stem cell register to give someone a second chance at life.

That makes you the solution to the problem. That makes you the change the register needs. That makes you someone’s cure. Join the register, and you could give someone a second chance of life.

Photo of Ezra donating his stem cells. He's also shared his story.
Ezra donated his stem cells in 2021

You should sign up if you haven't already. If you're asked to donate, it's really easy, painless and could save somebody's life

Ezra, stem cell donor

To apply to join the stem cell register, you need to fill in our online form to request a swab pack to complete and post back.

Did you know?

Only with a rich mix of ethnic backgrounds among our stem cell donors can we make sure everyone has the best chance of surviving blood cancer.

Don't let ethnicity decide who survives blood cancer.

The key things to remember are: 

  • You’ll stay on our register until you turn 61
  • There are two ways you could be asked to donate, and you need to be comfortable with both as it’s based on what’s best for the patient: 
    • 90% of people donate via their bloodstream – you’ll receive a course of injections for a few days before, and then go into hospital for the day where stem cells are collected from your bloodstream over 4-5 hours and filtered out using a special machine.  
    • 10% of people donate through their bone marrow – the cells are collected from your hip bone.You’re placed under a general anaesthetic throughout. This means you will be unconscious and won’t feel any pain. You’ll stay in hospital for two nights.
Anesu and family
Anesu received a lifesaving stem cell transplant in 2020

Because of our ethnicity, the chances of finding our son Anesu a matching donor were extremely slim. It was heart-breaking.

Alvin, father to Anesu

Did you know?

You need to be aged 16–30 to join our stem cell register. Research has shown that younger donors increase a patients' chance of surviving.

What happens when you join the stem cell register? 

1. Fill in the form 

We have an online application form that asks all the right questions: 

  • Your details, including age and weight to check you’re eligible, as well as contact information 
  • Medical questionnaire to make sure you are in good health to donate. Keeping you safe is our top priority!  
  • A back-up contact who we can get in touch with if we’re struggling to reach you if you come up as a match 

2. Send back your swab

Once your application is approved, we’ll send your swab pack in the post for you to complete and post back ASAP. We can only add you to the register once we’ve got your swabs back in our lab ready to find out your tissue type. 

3. You’re Lifesaver Ready 

You’ll get an email and donor card in the post when your application is complete. If you haven’t already, now is the time to let the world know you’re #LifesaverReady!  

After you’ve sent those Tweets/Whatsapps/told your nearest and dearest or posted a TikTok, it’s time to wait and see if one day you get the call to say you’re a match. 

What happens if you are asked to donate? 

1. You’re a match! 

If you are identified as a potential match for a patient, then we’ll be in touch! We’ll call, email and text to make sure we reach you - please get back to our team as soon as possible. 

You’ll be asked to provide some blood samples, and if the match is confirmed then you’ll have a medical examination to make sure it’s completely safe for you to donate. 

2. Your donation 

When your donation can go ahead, we’ll arrange a date that suits you and organise absolutely everything. 

Did you know?

We’ll book and pay for hotels and travel for you and a companion, and cover any reasonable expenses and loss of earnings.

Did you know?

Your donation will be completely anonymous and will take place in the UK. Amazinglyyour donated cells could go to help someone anywhere in the world! 

3. After your donation

Once you have donated, our lovely Donor Follow-Up team will check in with you to make sure you’re doing OK.  

Most donors will feel some side-effects due to their donation, but they’re usually mild and get better with rest: 

  • If you donate through your bloodstream, the most common side effect is bone pain after your pre-donation injections as your body is busy producing extra stem cells. You may also feel fatigued - taking paracetamol and resting should help, and these will go away quickly after your donation day.   
  • If you donate through your bone marrow, you’ll feel achy in the area around your hip bones in your back where the bone marrow was taken from and have some bruising, as well as feel tired after the general anaesthetic. Again, taking paracetamol and resting should help.  

We also keep in touch with our donors for the next 10 years to make sure you’re doing well.  

Depending on the rules in different countries, our Donor Follow-Up team might be able to help you make contact with your recipient if you wanted to – this would be anonymous for the first two years. 

What do donors say donating feels like? 

Is it painful? 

'I think a lot of people think donation hurts. I didn't find any of the process painful at all. I had a few blood tests taken and needles put in me, but it's just like any blood test you have at your doctors.'

Doug donated his stem cells in 2019

'I was treated like a superstar, the hospital was really fantastic and the process itself was painless - I didn't feel anything. It was over before I knew it.'

Rinesh donated his bone marrow in 2015

Do I have to take time off work? 

'The process was all so easy because it was all fitted around me. They fit it to when I was free and when I could get down there, and my employer said I could take any time off I needed.'

Carney donated his stem cells in 2019

Did you know?

You might need to take some time off work for your donation and recovery – if your employer won’t give you paid leave, we’ll cover any loss of earnings.

What if I don’t like needles? 

'I’m not the biggest fan of needles (as I doubt anyone is) but I’ve had blood tests and injections before so I knew what to expect. I think my eagerness to help others overrode the fear of the needle. And after experiencing it, I would do it again any day.'

Esme, stem cell donor
Esme donated her stem cells in 2021

All your questions answered 

Have questions? We have the answers

Why do you need to be aged 16–30?

Legally, you can only give ‘informed consent’ to join when you’re over 16. 

A stem cell donation is voluntary and wouldn’t directly benefit you, so your parent/guardian can’t give consent on your behalf. 

Our upper age limit is 30 because our research has shown that stem cell transplants work better if the donor is younger so we focus our limited funds on recruiting donors aged 30 and under

Ready to register? Join now! Once you're on it, you could be asked to donate until you turn 61.

Aged 31+?

Why do you need more men to join the register?

Young men are far more likely to be chosen to donate by transplant centres and provide more than half of all donations. Unfortunately, they only make up 18% of our register. There’s therefore an urgent need for more to sign up. Will you? Join now! 

Can I join the register if I'm a gay man?

Of course! Your sexuality won’t stop you joining our register. You’ll be subject to the same rules and health checks as everyone else. Join today!

Can I join the register if I'm taking PrEP?

Of course! You can join the register if you're taking PrEP. But if you're asked to donate between now and when you turn 61, then you might not be able to donate if you're still taking PrEP or took it in the months leading up to our request. This is because PrEP interferes with the testing process that all potential donors go through.

Why do you need more people from minority ethnic backgrounds?

People from minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to have unique tissue types (the particular collection of HLA genes used for matching patients and donors for transplant), and this means it can be harder to find fully matched unrelated donors for them.

We are dedicated to recruiting more people from minority ethnic backgrounds to our register, as each person we recruit is another chance of finding a lifesaving match. 

Ready to make a difference? Join today

If I've already joined a stem cell register, do I need to apply again?

No. You only need to be on one register as every time a patient needs a transplant, their hospital will contact Anthony Nolan and we will search all the potential donors in the UK and around the world to find a match.

How can I check if I'm already on the Anthony Nolan stem cell register?

Simply send your name and date of birth to our team so they can check for you. Email

Why do you need to be willing to donate via both methods?

It’s ultimately up to a patient’s doctor to decide whether they need stem cells collected from the bloodstream or from the bone marrow. Their decision is based on what’s best for the patient.

If you came up as a match and then decided you didn’t want to go ahead, it could have serious consequences if the patient has already started their preparation treatment for a transplant. That’s why we ask you to be comfortable with both methods, and as fully committed to donating as possible when you sign up. 

What are the chances that I'll be called up as a match?

We’ll only ask you to donate if you have a similar tissue type to someone in desperate need of a transplant. Most people on our register never donate.

Once you are on the register you have a 1 in 800 chance of being asked to donate in the next five years. 

However, it is worth knowing that your chance of being chosen to donate depends on your age and sex. A young man aged 16–30 has a 1 in 200 chance of being chosen to donate in the next five years. 

Where can I find out more about PBSC and bone marrow donation?

You can read through the whole process in detail on our PBSC donor page and bone marrow donor page. Remember to come back to this page to sign up when you’re ready!

What happens to the person who receives my stem cells?

Your recipient will have undergone a lot of treatment to get them to the day of their stem cell transplant. Your cells will allow their body to grow a brand-new immune system that can help stop their blood cancer or blood disorder from coming back.

In effect, you’ll have gifted them a second chance at life. How amazing is that?! 

Can donors get paid for donating their stem cells?

No. It's a criminal offence under section 32 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 to offer, give or receive a reward for the supply of cells, and to publish any such offer or incentive of a reward.  

Anthony Nolan is regulated by the Human Tissue Authority, who are responsible for enforcing the Human Tissue Act. We are also accredited by World Marrow Donor Association, an international accreditation body for donor registries and cord blood banks. Their standards clearly state that donors must not be paid for their donation. 

How might donation affect me and my wellbeing?

Donating your stem cells is a very special thing to do, but it’s also quite a big deal. So it’s worth finding out as much as you can about the process and its possible side effects so you’re well prepared in case you’re someone’s perfect match! Find out more on our Things to Consider page.

If you have a question that we haven’t answered here, please email our team at

What can I do if I can’t join? 

If you’re not able to join the register or you just can’t wait to start saving lives, then there are some very important ways you can help grow the stem cell register right now: