UConn Alumna Grace Rowbotham donates Mononuclear cells for medical research  

UConn alumna Grace Rowbotham donated her mononuclear cells for medical research twice in the last year through the Gift of Life registry, whose mission is to cure blood cancer through cellular therapy. Illustration by Zaire Diaz/The Daily Campus

The University of Connecticut alumna Grace Rowbotham donated her mononuclear cells for medical research twice in the last year through the Gift of Life registry. 

The Gift of Life registry is a public bone marrow and blood stem cell registry. The Gift of Life’s mission is to cure blood cancer through cellular therapy.   

Rowbotham currently lives in New York with her husband and 2-year-old son. She graduated from UConn in 2010 with a B.S. in Sports Management and Business and currently works for Disney. 

Rowbotham, who first joined the Gift of Life registry over 10 years ago did not know if she would ever get the call to donate.   

“I used to joke that every year I would get a call from Gift of Life asking, ‘what’s your address, can we update your contact info?’ When I picked up this year and they said they were calling about a research opportunity I was like, ‘What? Wait! This is really crazy!’” Rowbotham told Gift of Life. 

Digital Communications Coordinator for Gift of Life Jacob Domosh described mononuclear cells (MNCs) as important blood cells for the immune system. 

“Mononuclear cells, or MNCs are any blood cell with a round nucleus like lymphocytes, monocytes, natural killer cells (NK cells) or dendritic cells. These cells give selective responses to the immune system and are the major cells in immunity/the immune system,” Domosh said. 

Rowbotham said that Gift of Life requested that she donate because of her specific HLA type. 

“They needed my specific HLA type. The way I looked at it is, I might be a little uncomfortable for a few hours but for people who are suffering from these forms of cancer that’s their everyday situation. I only have to sit for a few hours and could potentially have an effect on hundreds or thousands of lives. It’s a small sacrifice. The donations lasted about three or four hours each time. Everything went smoothly for me,” Rowbotham said to Gift of Life. 

Rowbotham also cited her experience as a mom as making her want to donate. 

“I’m aware there are a lot of cancers that affect pediatric patients. So I feel like, as a mom anything I can do to improve science for my son and for the future is something I want to be a part of.” 

Domosh said that there are many ways UConn students can get involved with Gift of Life. 

“If students want to get involved, my recommendation would be to join the registry. Students can order a test kit online to be sent to their home… or they can locate a donor recruitment drive near them, and swab at the event! We always need volunteers as well…” Domosh said. “They can also apply to be part of Gift of Life’s Campus Ambassador Program and represent us on campus and help organize recruitment drives!” 

For more information about getting involved, click here.  

The Fall 2023 UConn Campus Ambassador Program application can also be found here.

Leave a Reply