Umbilical cord blood is the blood collected from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord. Parents have the opportunity to preserve the umbilical cord blood for many years. This preservation method is called cord blood banking where after birth of the baby ─ when the umbilical cord is clamped and cut ─ the remaining cord blood is collected, tested, processed and preserved by a private cord blood bank until needed for transplant.
Cord blood collection is a simple and safe procedure for both the baby and mother since it doesn’t interfere with the labor or birth and only takes place after the umbilical cord is detached from the baby. This is usually performed by the doctor or midwife attending the birth.
The purpose of using stem cells for transplant is to replace unhealthy cells, which is one of the most common medical procedures nowadays. These stem cells are derived from two common sources -- umbilical cord blood and bone marrow.
A bone marrow transplant requires a transplant from a donor to the recipient in order to cultivate new stem cells. Bone marrow grafts need to be a perfect match. However, a cord blood transplant can be carried out even if the match is partial. Cord blood contains nearly10 times more stem cells than bone marrow. And stem cells found in cord blood have greater regenerative properties since they are younger than those found in bone marrow.
Reduce Graft vs Host Disease (GvHD)
Graft rejection occurs when the recipient’s body rejects the newly transplanted stem cells. Using cord blood is preferred for transplant as the stem cells found in cord blood are less likely to attack the patient’s tissues even if the donor is not related.
If you share the same Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) with someone, your tissues are immunologically compatible. Since HLA protein is inherited, a family donor is likely to match exactly. Since 70% of recipient’s do not have a suitable family donor, using stem cells found in cord blood for transplant is a better choice as they adapt more easily. Learn more about HLA testing here »
Easier Cord Blood Availability
Stem cell transplants are needed by more than 30,000 patients annually and a suitable bone marrow donor is not so easily available. About 70% of patients cannot find an exact match which proves fatal for many cancer patients. Cord blood banking has proved to be savior as patients are likely to get a suitable donor from public banks and for those who stored their own cord blood stem cells.
From a donor’s perspective, bone marrow donation requires an invasive procedure with general anesthesia. This procedure is not needed for cord blood donors as the blood is collected right after the birth when the baby’s umbilical cord is clamped and cut.