DJ Michael Bibi in hospital

Join the stem cell register today

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.

What’s on this page?

"Last summer I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and given just a 30% chance of survival. Advancements in medical treatments like stem cell transplants gave me a second chance at life and are crucial in battling these conditions.

Anthony Nolan is a charity dedicated to ensuring that everyone who needs a lifesaving stem cell transplant finds a match.
By becoming part of the stem cell community, you could give the gift of life."

Michael Bibi

What do you need to know?

Thinking of becoming a lifesaver? Here are a few things you should know: 

  • To apply to join the stem cell register, you need to fill our online form to request a swab pack. This will be posted to you, you complete and post back.
  • Joining the register is easy and free.
  • You need to be aged 16–30 to join our stem cell register. 
  • You’ll stay on the register until you turn 61. 
  • Most people on our register will never come up as a match. But those who do, could be lifesavers. 
  • There are two ways you could be asked to donate, and you need to be comfortable with both as doctors decide which is best:  
  • 90% of people donate in a process called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection, which uses a special machine to filter out stem cells from your bloodstream. You’ll receive a course of injections for a few days first, then go into hospital for the collection, which usually takes around 4-5 hours.  
  • 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.   

Ready to make a difference?

Donor Jacob Hawley
Jacob donated his stem cells in 2018

It's amazing to know that I’ve been part of something that has had such a big impact on someone’s life. And it’s so easy!


Sign up to be someone’s best chance  

Joining our stem cell register is quick, free and easy. And it might just save a life!

1. Fill in our online form
Don’t worry, it won’t ask you anything you don’t know. Just basic information like your age, weight, some contact details, and some questions about your medical history.  

We use your answers to check you’re eligible to sign up, and to make sure you’re in good health. We won’t add you to the register if we’re at all concerned that the donation process would be too much for you. Your safety is our top priority!   

Sign up today!

2. Send back your swabs  

Once we have approved your application to join, we’ll send you a swab pack in the post. 

Swabs don’t hurt. They’re a bit like giant cotton buds. Following the instructions that come in the pack, simply move your swab around your mouth. Once you’re done, you just pop it back in the post to us. Easy!

Joining doesn’t always mean donating 

You may think it is obvious, but just to be clear, joining our register doesn’t mean you will automatically go on to donate your stem cells.
In fact, most people on our register won’t. 

It may be that there aren’t any patients with your tissue type. Even if you are a potential match, more checks will need to be made before you actually go on to donate.

And of course should the time come, you’ll want to chat to the medical teams involved before giving the final go-ahead. This page should give you the information you’ll need to make that decision.

After you’ve joined our community 

Once we’ve added you to the register, you’ll get an email from us with your virtual donor card. Then all you have to do is sit back and wait to see if you’re a match for someone like you, who needs a transplant.  

It may be months, years or you might never be matched with someone.
The important thing is that you’ve put yourself forward.

And there’s one more important thing – please let us know if you move home or change your phone number. We’d hate to need you but not be able to tell you! 

Donor Georgia - PBSC
Georgia donated her stem cells during COVID-19

It humbled me to think that, despite my own struggles with redundancy, I can still help other people


How do you donate? 

If you’re cleared to donate and are happy to go ahead, we’ll arrange a date that suits you and organise absolutely everything. There are donation centres in NHS and private hospitals in Sheffield, Manchester, Oxford and London, so we’ll make sure you’re booked in somewhere convenient for you. 

We’ll also book and pay for hotels, travel, and any reasonable expenses for you and a companion. You may have to take time off work for your donation and while you recover. If you can’t take paid leave then we’ll cover any loss of earnings. 

Once in hospital, your donation will be collected in one of two ways - either through your bloodstream or from your bone marrow. Both procedures are carried out thousands of times every year and are very safe.

Your donation will be completely anonymous. Once it’s done, your amazing, unique, lifesaving cells could go to help someone anywhere in the world! 

Esme donated her stem cells during Covid-19

I ended up basically just taking a long nap and watched a few movies. It was quite cosy especially with heated blankets to allow my blood to flow better. All in all it was quite therapeutic.


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 and will soon go away.  

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. 

Ethan, stem cell donor
Ethan donated his bone marrow in 2015

I’ve never had a general anaesthetic before but that was not as big a deal as I thought it was.  I was tired, but when I was in recovery I was just lying there and I didn’t feel like I had had anything done


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

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.

Ready to sign up?

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

Other ways to help 

If you don’t join the register – or if you do, but want to do more – there are lots of other ways you can help. You could: 

  • volunteer on our behalf 
  • take part in a fundraising event  
  • like, share and support our campaigns 
  • fund a new donor