MarrowMiner: A Life-Saving Device

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A surgeon performs a bone marrow harvest operation with standard equipment in 2002. Chad McNeeley/NAVY NEWS SERVICE

Have you ever wanted to save a life? If the answer is yes, then read ahead!

Bone marrow donation is one of the ways that you can save a life. Bone marrow donation can help save the life of a person suffering from Lymphoma, Leukemia, Thalassemia and several other types of cancer.

I know, bone marrow donation is usually considered to be a painful procedure. But what if I told you, that is not the case anymore. Saving a life will be a less painful task due to the invention of the MarrowMiner. It is a device developed by Dr. Daniel Kraft at the Stanford University School of Medicine for harvesting bone marrow.

Cancer is scary! Most people on this planet has someone in their lives that has been terrorized by cancer.  So, how does bone marrow transplantation help?

Bone marrow is a spongy tissue inside the bone that is home to hematopoietic stem cells that can form blood cells. During treatment, patients usually undergo several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. High dosage of chemotherapy drugs can kill cells present in the bone marrow that are responsible for formation of blood cells. Blood cells are important for fighting off infections or transport of oxygen or formation of blood clots. 

When a patient undergoes a bone marrow transplant, the patient is essentially getting stem cells that can form blood cells. Bone marrow donors are usually siblings who are a match, but someone who is not a blood relative can also be a donor if they are identified as a match through HLA typing.

Bone marrow isolated from the donor can be

  • Donated to be used as a treatment for cancer patients.
  • Stored for future use by the donor.
  • Donated to research labs that use stem cells to find therapeutic cures.

The current technique for harvesting bone marrow is a complicated surgical procedure and patients are given regional or general anesthesia. A drill-like needle is used to reach the bone marrow.

MarrowMiner is a medical device that has several advantages over the current procedure.

  • It is a less invasive and a less painful procedure for the donor since instead of a drill-like needle it has a flexible shaft that enters the inlet point in the patient.
  • Since the whole point of a bone marrow transplant is to replenish the stock of stem cells that has been destroyed in patients, it is important that a large concentration of stem cells are transplanted into the patient. Based on preliminary studies, the concentration of stem cells isolated using the MarrowMiner is significantly higher (~10 times higher) as compared to the current procedure used.
  • Using the current procedure for bone marrow isolation, the operating physician has to repeat the cycle of drilling the needle into the bone, taking it out, removing the collected bone marrow into a storage container about 200 times before a sufficient amount of bone marrow is collected from a donor. But MarrowMiner is way more efficient in this process, meaning: only one single entry and exit cycle through the bone is required to isolate the required volume of bone marrow.
  • Donors have reported back pains for several days after donating bone marrow using the current surgical procedure. Preliminary clinical trials using the MarrowMiner have shown that it is a safe procedure with no post operational pain.

The device has received a 501(k) (FDA approval for medical devices) and a CE (approval for medical devices in the European market) and is being commercialized by Hospira. Here is a TED video of Dr. Daniel Kraft talk about his vision of this amazing invention:

In conclusion, MarrowMiner will not only make life easier for physicians but with a decrease in the pain level after bone marrow donation, it will also encourage more people to donate bone marrow thereby saving countless lives. 

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