Los Angeles: The percentage of South Asians registered in the US National Marrow Donor Registry is so small that patients from the region perforce join a long queue for matching donors.
Urmi and Girish are two of those waiting for a matching bone marrow transplant here.
Urmi, 5, has been diagnosed with aplastic anaemia and requires an immediate marrow transplant. She loves to play with her dolls and read stories about Lord Krishna in Gujarati, according to India Post, an ethnic Indian magazine.
Girish, who came to the US in 1995 and is the father of a four-year-old boy, was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease - acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) - last year.
Up to 30 percent of patients find a matching donor within their families, but the remaining 70 percent have to search for an unrelated donor.
Bone marrow is the soft tissue found in the hollow interior of bones. It is the place where most new blood cells are produced.
Nobel laureate E. Donnall Thomas has pioneered bone marrow transplantation at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre since the 1950s. Thomas' work showed that bone marrow cells infused intravenously could repopulate the bone marrow and produce new blood cells.