Canadian Blood Services is looking for people with First Nations background in Manitoba and northern Ontario who are willing to donate bone marrow.

The bone marrow donor registry matches volunteers who are willing to donate their bone marrow, the tissue found in the soft centre of the bones, to people who need it to treat life-threatening illnesses.

Currently, only one per cent of the people on the registry are of aboriginal descent.

It's important to have a wide donor base in order to help as many patients as possible, said Canadian Blood Services spokesman Michael Hyduk.

"The sample of bone marrow— or stem cells as they're also known— is unique to an individual, and they contain certain proteins, certain components that make it difficult to really get a true match unless you're able to access a very wide donor base," he said.

Canadian Blood Services is launching a campaign to get people of diverse ethnic groups to consider signing on to the registry.

Bone marrow manufactures blood cells, including red blood cells tocarry oxygen, white ones for fighting infection, and platelets that help stop bleeding. It can be affected by illnesses such as leukemia, anemia and immune or metabolic disorders.

Potential donors must be between 17 and 50 years old and meet certain health criteria.

Joining the registry does not mean a person would be called on to donate right away — or ever, Canadian Blood Services notes.Volunteer donors are entered into a database that is searched when a patient requires marrow.

Bone marrow matches are determined according to the compatibility of inherited genetic markers. The markers are not related to blood type.

If a donor is called on, marrow is removed from the large bones of the pelvis while he or she is under anesthetic. Canadian Blood Services reimburses expensesincurred as a result of donating, such as travel costs.