Stem Cell Transplantation

Shaun McCann & St James’ Hospital (IE)
Video, 2014

This video shows bone marrow stem cells being taken from a donor to use in a stem cell transplant (SCT) for a recipient with leukaemia (a type of blood cancer). The discovery of stem cells in bone marrow was a by-product of the research carried out in Los Alamos during the development of the atomic bomb in World War II.

Stem cell transplantation — previously known as a blood or marrow transplant — is the injection or infusion of healthy stem cells, into the body to replace damaged or diseased cells. A SCT may be necessary if the bone marrow doesn’t produce enough healthy cells or in the treatment of blood disorders such as leukaemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma or sickle cell anaemia. A SCT can help the body make healthy white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets, and reduce the risk of lifethreatening infections, anaemia and bleeding. A SCT can use cells from the patient’s own body, from a donor or from an identical twin.

The human placenta contains many blood vessels to provide nutrients to the foetus. Blood in the umbilical vein is also a rich source of stem cells that can be used for transplantation.

About the artist: 

Shaun McCann is a haematologist who established the National Stem Cell Transplant Unit in 1984 and carried out the first successful stem cell transplant for a patient with leukaemia. Stem Cell Transplantation is a short video that shows part of this surgical procedure. Shaun emphasises the amazing ability of stem cells to populate their host and give rise to all cells found in the blood. Many people are alive today who would not have survived their blood disease without stem cell transplantation.