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What are Bone Marrow Failure Syndromes (BMFS)?

Bone marrow is an important and complex organ, and quite literally our factory for blood cells. Healthy bone marrow works to produce new red and white blood cells and platelets every single day.

BMFS are a collection of medical conditions where the bone marrow stops working, resulting in low blood cell counts.

  • Reduced red blood cells results in anaemia. Symptoms of anaemia include pallor, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness and lethargy.
  • Reduced white blood cells results in increased risk of severe infections.
  • Reduced platelets, the cells responsible for clotting, results in bleeding. Symptoms of low platelets include bruising.
  • BMFS are due to the inability of the bone marrow stem cells (known as the haematopoietic stem cells or HSC) to produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in sufficient amounts to meet physiological demand.
  • BMFS may be acquired (affecting a previously normal marrow) or inherited.

Types of BMFS

  • Acquired BMFS include aplastic anaemia
  • Inherited BMFS include a range of severe and progressive diseases that often worsen in early adulthood. These include: Fanconi Anaemia, Shwachman  Diamond Syndrome, Diamond Blackfan Anaemia, Dyskeratosis Congenita, Severe Congenital Neutropenia , Thrombocytopenia  Absent Radii and Congenital Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia 

How are BMFS treated?

  • Transfusions for low red cells or platelets
  • Antibiotics for infections
  • Some types of BMFS (aplastic anaemia) can be treated with immune suppressive medications
  • Currently, the only established cure for BMFS is bone marrow transplantation

Where can I find out more about donating bone marrow?

Visit the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry website abmdr.org.au