Where can you get paid to donate bone marrow? And what does bone marrow donation compensation look like?

Donating bone marrow can be time consuming and painful, and there is no guarantee that you will be selected as a donor. That being said, if you are willing to go through the process, bone marrow donation can net you a significant amount of money. Many people aren’t aware of what this process entails. In this article, we’ve compiled all the important information that you need to know about bone marrow donation, including the donor requirements, expected compensation levels, and the risks and benefits of this procedure.

In This Article

  • What is bone marrow?

  • How are bone marrow donations used?

  • What are the risks and benefits of giving marrow?

  • A list of bone marrow donation centers

What Is Bone Marrow and How Are Bone Marrow Donations Used?

Bone marrow is found on the inside of large bones, such as the hip bone or pelvis. Marrow contains two types of stem cells and is responsible for creating white and red blood cells, bone, and cartilage.

Bone marrow donations can help people who are living with lymphoma, leukemia, and sickle cell anemia, along with other medical conditions. Patients with these conditions sometimes receive bone marrow donations so that they can begin to produce their own red and white blood cells, bone, and cartilage without having to rely on donations. The stem cells within the marrow are also used for cancer research.

Do You Get Paid to Donate Bone Marrow? How Long Will It Take?

There are two ways to donate marrow. The first is to donate the physical marrow contained in your large bones. This is the least time-intensive of the options. Once you are at your scheduled appointment, the process itself is very quick. The doctor will locally numb your back at the iliac crest (the top of your hip bones), then insert a needle and take the marrow out. The actual marrow removal process takes less than two minutes.

The other method of donating marrow is to donate peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC). If you are donating PBSC, you will go through a process called apheresis. The basic procedure involves drawing your blood out through a needle, filtering the necessary cells out of your blood, and then returning your filtered blood to you through another needle. The process takes four to eight hours, which, depending on the location, can be spread out over two consecutive days. This is known as a non-mobilized donation.

Another option, which tends to pay more but requires more commitment from the donor, is to do a mobilized donation. A mobilized donation is the most time-intensive of the options. This involves going in for a pre-screening appointment and receiving a series of four shots of a drug called filgrastim ahead of the actual donation. Filgrastim stimulates the production of PBSC, which means that the researchers end up with a higher number of useful cells after the donation. After the filgrastim injections, the PBSC donation process itself will take place in the same manner as a non-mobilized donation.

What Are the Risks and Benefits of Giving Marrow?

If you donate or sell your bone marrow, you may feel some pain, bruising, stiffness, and swelling for up to two weeks. It should take less than a week for you to be able to return to school, work, or your other regular activities. Otherwise, side effects are typically minimal for the normal marrow donation process.

For a non-mobilized donation, you may feel some localized pain and bruising at the needle stick sites. Other aftereffects are usually very limited.

If you decide to do a mobilized donation, you may experience flu-like symptoms during the duration of the procedure. Most side effects will begin to subside within 48 hours of donation, with most donors reporting a full recovery within a week of the procedure. More serious side effects are possible, but rare.

Each laboratory listed below provides resources in the off-chance that you experience serious side effects following your donation.

Although there can be some pain and discomfort associated with bone marrow donation, your donation can save lives, both directly and indirectly. The bone marrow may go to a patient who needs it in order to survive, or it may go towards research for finding a cure for different types of cancer and genetic diseases.

Where Should I Donate Bone Marrow for Money? How Much Money Do You Get for Donating Bone Marrow?

In most states, it is technically illegal to sell body parts for money. However, donors can receive compensation for their time by donating bone marrow or PBSC.

1. Be the Match

  • How much money can donors earn? Donors are not paid, but they will be reimbursed for their travel costs and the costs of all medical procedures. Be the Match “may reimburse other costs on a case-by-case basis.
  • How will donors be compensated? Donors may be compensated in cash.
  • How often can donors donate? Be the Match will contact donors whenever there is a match for their donation.
  • What is the length of time that donors have to wait between donations? The amount of time between donations varies, as it is dependent on when the organization finds someone for whom a donor is a match.
  • Donor Requirements: Donors must be between 18 and 60 years old, not exhibiting signs of a cold or other infection, and not pregnant. Donors will not be allowed to register if they:
    • have asthma
    • have HIV or AIDS
    • have a severe medical arthritic condition such as rheumatoid, reactive, psoriatic and advanced stages of other types of arthritis
    • have autoimmune illnesses that affect your whole body
    • received xenotransplant (live tissues from animals)
    • are severely underweight, or have a BMI greater than 40
    • …or if they have a number of other health concerns. Read the full list here.
  • Read the above information and more on the FAQs page of the Be the Match website.

2. HemaCare — Van Nuys, California

  • How much money can donors earn? Compensation depends on what was donated and the volume, but HemaCare does not provide numbers ahead of time. The compensation level may vary by donor and location.
  • How will donors be compensated? HemaCare did not provide this information.
  • How often can donors donate? Donors can donate every ten weeks, as long as there is a need. A researcher from HemaCare will inform donors when additional donations are in demand.
  • What is the length of time that donors have to wait between donations? Donors must wait at least ten weeks.
  • Donor Requirements: Donors must be in good health and feeling well, at least 18 years old, weight at least 110 pounds, and not take any medications containing aspirin for 72 hours or ibuprofen for 24 hours before donating. Donors must not:
    • have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, or Hepatitis C
    • have ever used needles to take drugs, steroids, or anything not prescribed by your doctor
    • are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977
    • have ever taken money, drugs, or any other form of payment for sex since 1977
    • have had sexual contact in the past 12 months with anyone described above
    • have had syphilis or gonorrhea in the past 12 months
    • in the past 12 months have been in juvenile detention, lockup, jail, or prison for more than 72 hours
    • have lived in, or visited the United Kingdom, which includes England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Mann, or the Channel Islands from 1980-1996 for a total of three months or more
    • have spent five years or more (total) in Europe since 1980
    • have visited a malarial endemic country within the last year
  • Read the above information and more on the FAQs page of the HemaCare website.

3. Fred Hutch — Seattle, Washington

  • How much money can donors earn? Donors can earn $300 for a non-mobilized donation and $800 for a mobilized one.
  • How will donors be compensated? Donors will be compensated with a check.
  • How often can donors donate? There is currently a cap limiting donors to three mobilized donations in one lifetime, because of the lack of research on the filgrastim shot.
  • What is the length of time that donors have to wait between donations? The length of time between donations depends on the researchers’ needs. For non-mobilized donations, donors must wait for a minimum of ten weeks between donations.
  • Donor Requirements: Donors must be between 18 and 70 years of age, and will not be allowed to donate if they:
    • have donated blood within the last 72 hours
    • have symptoms of an infection, including a cold
    • have undergone leukapheresis within the past three weeks
    • are pregnant
  • Read the above information and more on the Donor Program page of the Fred Hutch website.

4. LeukoLab — Bay Area, California, and Quincy, Massachusetts

  • How much money can donors earn? Donors will be paid based on how much and what substance they donated, but LeukoLab declined to comment on what that amount may be. The compensation level may vary by donor and location.
  • How will donors be compensated? Donors will receive a check by mail within ten business days of donation.
  • How often can donors donate? Donations can be given every ten weeks.
  • What is the length of time that donors have to wait between donations? Donors must wait at least ten weeks between donations. Donors will be contacted when researchers have put in another order and there is demand for additional donations.
  • Donor Requirements: Donors at LeukoLab will have to fill out a screening form to see if they qualify. LeukoLab does not disqualify based on things such as piercings, tattoos, sexual orientation, and recent travel.
  • Read the above information and more on the FAQs page of the LeukoLab website.

In Summary

At this time, the main places to donate marrow are national registries that will contact you when there is a need for your donation. Fred Hutch and LeukoLab are among the only labs in the U.S. that will take bone marrow donations for research purposes. Fred Hutch in Seattle, WA is the only lab to offer a definitive price for marrow donations ($300 for non-mobilized and $800 for mobilized), while LeukoLab and HemaCare compensation rates will vary. Be the Match is one of the largest marrow registries; this agency reimburses donors but does not compensate them.

Donating bone marrow can be lifesaving for the recipients, and it could mean advancing the research to cure widespread and devastating diseases. The information in this article has provided a groundwork for understanding how the bone marrow donation process works, and how much bone marrow donation pays.