The first clinically documented successful treatment using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood was in 1988, where a six year old boy was treated for Fanconi anemia.14 Since then, cord blood stem cells have been studied and their usage has increased, so much that more than 20,000 cord blood stem cell transplants have been performed.2 Along with bone marrow transplants, cord blood stem cell transplants have become a standard of care for hematopoietic (blood forming) reconstitution – or to restore the blood forming cells within one’s body.16
While both bone marrow and cord blood can be used for hematopoietic reconstitution – the restoration of blood forming cells within one’s body, there are several differences. A few are listed here:
Collection: Umbilical Cord blood needs to be collected and processed at birth, and the stem cells preserved. Once done, the cells are available for use. The collection itself poses minimal risk to the mother or infant. Bone marrow requires surgery under general anesthesia.
Engraftment: Engraftment is the incorporation of the transplanted stem cells into the recipient or patient. Bone marrow cells engraft faster than umbilical cord blood cells.
Search & Recovery of a Suitable Unit: With private umbilical cord blood banking, it may take a couple of days or longer to access the unit. For cord blood stem cells on a registry, units are generally immediately available and once a suitable match is found can be quickly shipped to the transplant hospital.22 For bone marrow, it may take a few weeks to a few months to transplant, if a donor is available.22