New pain-free way to test for bone marrow donors

Britain's leading leukaemia charity has invented a painless new way to test whether someone is a match for a bone marrow transplant.

The Anthony Noland Trust has developed a saliva DNA kit which will allow doctors to match transplant candidates and patients without having to take any blood samples.

There are currently 1,400 people waiting for a bone marrow transplant, which is often their last chance of survival. Most patients who need a transplant are suffering from leukaemia, autoimmune diseases and various blood disorders.

Until now the only way to comprehensively test tissue type has been to take a blood sample with a syringe, something which doctors have long feared stops many people from signing up to bone marrow registries.

The new saliva test will allow people to sign up and place their details on a bone marrow register from home, rather than needing to attend a doctor's surgery or a recruitment drive. Those wanting to sign up to the register will now be able to spit into a test tube and then post it back to the Trust where specialists will analyse the DNA to look for potential matches. DNA specialists only need 0.5ml of saliva to run tests.

Anthony Nolan has been piloting the new saliva kits since December 2009 and over 5000 people joined the register using the new method. They hope that the new test will eventually double the number of people who sing onto bone registries every year.

Henny Braund, chief executive of Anthony Nolan, said, "We're really excited about the switch to saliva testing. Ultimately, this is about saving more lives. Anthony Nolan provides two potentially lifesaving transplants every day, but there is an equal number that we can't currently help. We urgently need to increase the number of people on our register, and saliva testing will help us do that much more quickly and effectively."

Some donor registries in the United States have begun to use mouth swabs to test for tissue compatibility but Anthony Noland trust says their new saliva test is more reliable because it has a longer shelf life.

The tests have been developed by DNA Genotek, a Canadian firm which has invented a way of preserving saliva so that the DNA samples can be held for up to two months at room temperature before they begin to decay.

"Saliva gives large, intact DNA fragments just like you find in blood," explained Alasdair McWhinnie, a research scientist at Anthony Nolan. "But the problem with blood is that you generally have to store it in a refrigerator or freezer if you need it for more than a couple of days."



Video: 'Life-saving' saliva test

As well as enabling people to register from home, the saliva tests should make it much easier to organise donors within scattered families. Approximately 30% of patients in need of a bone marrow transplant are able to find a donor through family or relatives. Previously doctors would need to travel to those relatives or organise a day where they all get together in order to take blood samples. With the saliva tests they will be able to test their compatibility by post.

There are also hopes that the new saliva tests will encourage more black and Asian people to sign up to the transplant registers. To decide if a potential donor's bone marrow will be compatible with a patient, doctors have to find matching tissue types. Each person's tissue type is made up of a series of antigens. There are hundreds of antigens and thousands of tissue types, some of which more commonly found within certain racial or ethnic sections of society.

Black and minority ethnic (BME) patients are currently much less likely to find a bone marrow matches because they are woefully underrepresented on the two national bone registries, one of which is run by the Anthony Nolan Trust, the other is run by the NHS.

According to the Afro-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust, which specialises in finding matches for black patients, of the 690,000 people on the two registries there are currently just 25,000 black and 12,600 Asian donors.

While a white person has a one in three chance of finding a donor, Asian and black patients have just a one in 125,000 chance.

Beverley De-Gale, founder of the ACLT, said: “Saliva tests will help dispel the apathy and reluctance in these communities, radically speed up bone marrow registration and renew the public’s enthusiasm to help save lives.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

    Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

    Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

    £15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us