Doug, stem cell donor


University students saving lives

For someone with blood cancer or a blood disorder, an amazing stranger donating their stem cells could be their best chance of survival.  

If you sign up to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register and one day, come up as a genetic match, you could be that amazing stranger. 

Did you know? There are hundreds of student volunteers recruiting potential lifesavers at university campus’ all around the UK.

1 in 100 people recruited on a university campus go on to donate their stem cells and potentially save a patient’s life. Pretty incredible, huh?…

Marrow means a lot of things to a lot of people. But for a quarter of patients, it means the donor that gave them a second chance at life.

Here are the facts

  • You can join online! You'll get a pack in the post for you to do a cheek swab and send back. We'll test your sample and add your information to the stem cell register.
  • You'll stay on the register until you're the grand age of 61. If you ever come up as a match for someone with blood cancer, we'll be in touch.
  • We'll organise the whole thing. We support you at every stage of your donation and arrange everything, from travel to accommodation. We've got it all covered.
  • There are two ways you might be asked to donate:

90% of people donate via their bloodstream in a straightforward process, called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection.

I was hooked onto the machine for around 4/5 hours so it's pretty boring! Afterwards I felt pretty tired as you would expect, but felt really good that I had done something good for someone.

Joe, who donated via PBSC

10% have their stem cells collected via their bone marrow while under general anaesthetic.

Bone marrow donating done! I can honestly say it has been an amazing and surprisingly pain-free experience (I am a wimp!). Knowing I’ve given someone a second chance at life is such a fantastic feeling.

Donna, who donated via bone marrow

Volunteer at your university with Marrow

Marrow groups are university volunteers who work with Anthony Nolan to recruit potential lifesavers on campus and raise vital funds. Marrow sounds brilliant, right? You can volunteer with your uni’s incredible Marrow group and be a part of giving people with blood cancer a second chance of life.

Meet some marvellous Marrow donors and patients

1 in 4 people who go on to donate their stem cells were recruited by Marrow. That’s an incredible stat. And these Marrowers have heroic and personal stories to tell:

Manchester Marrow members, Matt, Kieran and Max

Being told a match had been found for me was as if someone had breathed new life into me, reigniting my will to continue my fight. It provided hope in a hopeless situation and without hope I would not be here today. I am completely indebted to my donor’s decision to become a lifesaver. Without them, I would not have even had the chance to survive.

Max, a stem cell recipient
Luke, donating his stem cells

That day came with a text message asking me to get in touch – I was pleased to hear that out of everyone on the register I was a match. I can now say ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt’. All of this happened in my final year of university. I could’ve said ‘No, it’s the wrong time’, but for someone out there who needs it, it was exactly the right time.

I would recommend joining the register to anyone who can. Getting a donor brings hope to those with blood cancer and their families.

Luke, a stem cell donor

Watch our donation animation

This animation takes you through a lifesaving journey - from getting the call if you come up as a genetic match for someone in need of a transplant, to the step by step process of donating your stem cells through your bloodstream or bone marrow.

FAQs about stem cell donation


Why do you have to be aged between 16 and 30 to join the register?

Statistics show that young people are more likely to be chosen as donors in lifesaving transplants, and our research has shown that younger donors lead to better survival rates in patients.

Of course, people over 30 can make excellent donors too, and that’s why we ask people to stay on our register until their 61st birthday.

As a charity with limited resources, we need to focus on recruiting the people most likely to be chosen as donors.

Why do you need more young men to join the register?

We’re grateful to have both men and women aged 16–30 on our register.

However, young men aged 16–30 provide over 55% of donations, but they make up only 18% of the register.

Why do you have to be willing to donate your stem cells in two different ways?

Nearly 90% of people give their stem cells through peripheral blood stem cell collection. This is a simple process, similar to donating blood.

However, in some situations and for some conditions, a patient will need stem cells from bone marrow. If that’s the case, we’ll ask you to donate bone marrow from your pelvis, which a doctor will take using a needle and syringe under general anaesthetic.

Do you need to join the Anthony Nolan register if you've already joined another stem cell register?

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.

Other ways to help


If you're not eligible to join the register, don't worry - there're plenty of other amazing ways you can support our work and help save lives.

If you're at university and wanting to get involved in our network of lifesaving students, find out about Marrow at your university.

You could run a marathon, go skydiving, volunteer with us, or even lobby your local MP on behalf of people with blood cancer and blood disorders in desperate need. Take a look here for more details.