Blast cells are immature cells found in bone marrow. They are not fully developed, and therefore, do not yet carry out any particular function within the body. In normal humans, up to five percent of the cells found in bone marrow are blast cells. When a higher percentage of them are found, further testing may be needed, as this is an indication of one of several disorders which affect the blood and bones.
Normally, blast cells continue to mature within the bone marrow and then begin to carry out set functions. White blood cells make up the immune system and attack and destroy invading bacteria and viruses. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body and release carbon dioxide to be exhaled by the lungs. In a healthy person, these functions are carried out normally and efficiently. The problem begins when too many blast cells do not mature.
When a higher than normal ratio of blast cells are found within the bone marrow a problem may exist. Leukemia is one of the most common blood-related cancers, and generally occurs when too many white blood cells remain as blast cells. Unlike normal cells, these mutated cells do not eventually mature and begin functioning within the body. They usually continue to be immature, and more are often formed at a rapid pace. This eventually causes a low blood count of normal cells.
There are varying degrees of leukemia and related diseases. A slightly higher than average blast cell count may only lead to anemia that can be treated. Very high counts often require cancer therapies like chemotherapy and radiation to kill off the quickly invading cells. This can also lead to a further decrease in healthy cells, since these therapies are not sophisticated enough to target only cancer cells.
Bone marrow transplants may be performed to replace malfunctioning marrow. This will allow the patient to once again produce normally functioning cells. Stem cell treatments may also be used to replace "bad" cells. The main drawback to these therapies is that an exact marrow or stem cell match is needed in order to perform the procedures. Donors are usually siblings, parents, or less commonly, other family members. In some cases, a non-related donor may be found.