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Drive for diversity

Trying to find a bone marrow donor is challenging for anyone in need of a transplant, but a person's ethnicity can unfortunately make the challenge even tougher. The Sigma Psi Zeta sorority, along with the Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity and the Cammy Lee Leukemia Foundation, hosted a bone marrow drive yesterday in Newcomb Hall in order to diversify the current national donor registry.

Lee, who attended yesterday's drive, explained the importance of registering people, especially those of minority background, in the bone marrow registry. According to Lee, about one in 20,000 people of minority background in the United States can find a suitable bone marrow donor. Of the six million people currently in the national registry, only approximately eight percent are Asian American.

Lee explained that, though there is always a risk of graft rejection, in which a patient's body rejects the new cells, a transplant offers "a second chance at life."

According to Calvin Chun, third-year Engineering student and vice president of finances of Lambda Phi Epsilon, his fraternity adopted bone marrow donation as a national philanthropic cause approximately 25 years ago, when one brother suffered from leukemia and needed to find a donor.

Sigma Psi Zeta began to support bone marrow donation in July after learning of one of its sisters at the University of Rochester, Wincheng Lin's, rare disease -- acute undifferentiated leukemia.

Jeanette Moy, former national president of Sigma Psi Zeta, said alumnae are also getting involved in the effort to promote marrow donation.

The goals of Sigma Psi Zeta's drives include raising awareness of leukemia and other blood-related diseases, encouraging people to register for the marrow donation program and seeking a donor for Lin.

Lee explained the process that University students completed in order to register as donors yesterday. Each prospective donor filled out paperwork and had his or her mouth swabbed in order to test the first two of six antigens that should match in order for a successful transplant.

Lee said if a potential donor's first two antigens match a potential recipient's antigens, further testing will be done on the potential donor. The goal is to find a "perfect match" of all six antigens, Lee said, though, in some critical cases, a marrow transplant is attempted with a match of only four of six antigens.

If a donor's marrow is believed to be compatible with a recipient's cells, the actual bone marrow donation can be done in two different ways, Lee explained. A donor can either have marrow extracted through the hip bone while under general anesthesia or can have stem cells extracted from his or her blood through apheresis.

Jasmine Lee, fourth-year College student and president of the University's chapter of Sigma Psi Zeta, said yesterday's drive added over 60 people to the national registry.

Though yesterday's drive fell short of its goal of registering 100 people, those in need of a transplant are grateful for each additional person who is added to the registry.

"I'd like to give my eternal thanks to everyone out there who is working on this drive," Lin wrote in an e-mail. "I can't explain in words what a feeling it is to know that this is a nationwide effort."


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