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University of Iowa News Release

June 6, 2003

Bone Marrow Donor Registration Drive To Honor Rock Island Man

Family and friends of an 18-year-old Rock Island, Ill., man will hold a drive to register potential marrow donors from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, June 9 at the Martin Luther King Center in Fort Dodge.

Justin Sharp, 18, was diagnosed with leukemia on May 12, 2003. It is possible that he will need a bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant. It is not known if Justin will have a sibling match, and he may need to turn to the National Marrow Donor Program's national registry of almost five million people for an unrelated donor.

Sharp, whose ethnic background is mixed, describes himself as "half-Caucasian and half-black." For those with minority heritages, finding a matched, unrelated donor might prove difficult due to unique characteristics in their tissue typing and the lower number of minorities in the registry. Persons of African-American descent face even more serious challenges in finding a matched donor. Sharp said he wanted a marrow donor registration drive to be held "so people can be helped."

The Iowa Marrow Donor Program seeks committed volunteers, ages 18 to 60 and in general good health. When joining the Iowa Marrow Donor Program, a person's tissue type becomes registered as part of the Iowa and National Marrow Donor Programs' registries. Once registered, a volunteer may be called upon to donate marrow or blood stem cells to a person needing a transplant to fight a life-threatening disease. Registration is easy, requiring completion of a simple consent form and a small blood sample.

Each year, more than 30,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with diseases treatable by a stem cell transplant. Of the patients needing to receive healthy stem cells from someone else, only 30 percent have a suitable family match, leaving the additional 70 percent to rely on unrelated donors.

The Iowa Marrow Donor Program was created in 1981 and became affiliated with the National Marrow Donor Program in 1991. An average of 25-30 donors are called to donate each year from the Iowa Marrow Donor Program's registry of 19,219 persons, and many more are called for further testing. The national registry contains more than five million names. Approximately 2,000 people join the Iowa and national registries each year through the Iowa Marrow Donor Program.

For more information about the donor drive or to receive application forms, call the Iowa Marrow Donor Program toll free at 800-944-8220 or locally at 319-356-3337. For more information regarding the Iowa Marrow Donor Program, please contact Debra Hoyle, membership coordinator of the Iowa Marrow Donor Program, by e-mail at Information about the program can be found online at

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Planning, Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room 8798 JPP, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945,