Tissues and cells
Part of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service’s 2025 Vision is to transform health through blood, tissue and cell therapy products.
We work in collaboration with other healthcare professionals to support the organ and tissue donation programme in Scotland and the wider UK to ensure we are able to support the clinical demand.
Four of our particular areas of expertise include:
- bone donation
- tissue donation
- pancreatic islet cell transplant
- haematopoeitic stem cell processing
What is bone donation?
Bone grafts can make a significant difference to a patient’s quality of life. They can help correct spinal deformities in children, help heal fractures that have failed to heal on their own, and even encourage new growth where diseased bone has been removed. However, for bone grafts to take place, bone needs to be donated by donors.
The most common source of bone is from patients needing a hip operation, where the surgeon needs to remove part of the bone as part of their treatment. The piece of bone that is normally removed can be used to help other patients.
Bone donation is entirely voluntary - whether or not a patient decides to donate the piece of bone being removed won’t affect their hip operation in any way. However, it is amazing to know that one patient’s routine operation could give another patient a whole new lease of life.
What is tissue donation?
Every year, hundreds of patients have life-saving organ transplants – the hearts, lungs, pancreas and kidneys they receive give them a whole new lease of life.
Besides donating organs, patients can also donate tissue after their death.
Tissue transplants, including heart valve, tendon, skin and corneal transplants, dramatically improve patients’ quality of life - and can even save lives.
What is a pancreatic islet cell?
Your pancreas is an organ behind your stomach which helps digest food. Up to 2% of your pancreas consists of specific cells known as islet cells. These islet cells produce the hormone insulin which is responsible for regulating your body’s blood sugar.
If you have type one insulin dependent diabetes, your body is unable to regulate your body’s blood sugar. This is because your body's immune system attacks and destroys the pancreatic islet cells which produce the insulin. For certain diabetic patients, a pancreatic islet cell transplant can be life changing.
What is haematopoietic stem cell transplant?
Haematopoietic Stem Cells (HSC) can develop into all types of blood cells, including white blood cells (which help fight off infection); red blood cells (which carry oxygen around the body); and platelets (tiny cellular fragments that help stop bleeding).
HSC play an important role in restocking the red cells, white cells and platelets in our blood and bone marrow, and keeping them at normal levels. However, if a patient develops a disease which affects their HSC (such as cancer), or needs treatment that damages their HSC, a transplant can be life-saving. Such a transplant means the new HSC can re-populate the bone marrow and replenish the blood with red cells, white cells and platelets.
How do I find out more?