Why is it worth banking cord blood

Banking stem cells from harvested umbilical cord blood provides the opportunity to have the cells available in future, in the event a family member is diagnosed with a disease treatable with transplantation. This is the only way to ensure access to a treatment option when it is most needed in your family.

We do not have the capacity to predict the future, therefore, we cannot foresee which diseases could potentially affect our relatives. The use of stem cells for treatment of approximately 80 different conditions (mainly haematopoietic and oncological diseases) has already become a routine clinical modality. Certainly, in future, further indications for applying stem cells will be revealed. Harvested stem cells derived from blood collected at birth can be made available to both the child itself, as well as to its siblings and even parents. Although these stem cells can only be harvested once in lifetime, they can be used decades later.

Why is it worth banking cord blood

Stem cells obtained from bone marrow can be collected throughout the course of life. Although the opportunity only presents itself once, stem cells derived from cord blood provide greater benefits than bone marrow stem cells, as the following table illustrates:


Umbilical Cord Blood

Bone Marrow

Duration and ease of blood collection

blood harvesting takes several minutes at childbirth, it is non-invasive and safe

collection can take a minimum of 25-30 minutes to be performed, the collection procedure involves a puncture of the wings of the ilium under general anaesthesia

Cross contamination risk

cord blood is retrieved from placenta and umbilical vessels – which minimises the risk of contamination

the donor is usually an adult who could be a symptomless carrier of viruses which could become active after the transplantation,  risk of contamination exists

Availability for transplantation

cord blood is available after deposition in a transplant bank and awaits the recipient

the marrow has to be harvested from a donor who, even if registered, is required to be present in order to confirm compatibility and collect the marrow, the donor must be in excellent health to allow the bone marrow harvest

Growth potential

greater proliferation capacity (cell multiplication, cellular rebirth) as opposed to bone marrow

cells reduced capacity to proliferate in comparison to cord blood cells

Compatibility between the donor and the recipient

EASY – 6 Human Transplantation Antigens (HLA) are tested out of which only 4 are required to be compatible between the blood and its recipient

EXTREMELY DIFFICULT – 10 Human Transplantation Antigens (HLA) undergo testing out of which 8 must be compatible between the bone marrow donor and the recipient

Prospective donors

cord blood can be retrieved only once throughout life – at birth

theoretically any adult meets the criteria for becoming a bone marrow donor, registration is simple and inexpensive, however finding a matched donor available on specific dates may prove complicated

Prospective recipients

the average cord blood unit is suitable for recipient weighing approximately 40 kg, blood units can be combined, with bone marrow or peripheral blood

bone marrow harvested from an adult will in general provide a sufficient supply of stem cells for a donor with 70-80 kg body weight

Regeneration of the cardiovascular system

cardiovascular system regeneration process following transplantation takes up to a month

cardiovascular system regeneration process following transplantation takes up 2 weeks

The only setback, in the case of cord blood, is the limited volume of blood that can be retrieved from the umbilical cord and the placenta. This inconvenience can be compensated by designating more than one cord blood unit for transplantation, it is possible to transplant cells originating from multiple sources e.g. bone marrow and cord blood. This procedure was applied in March 2007 during the first transplantation of cord blood from the FamiCord. The transplantation procedure consisted in supplementing the insufficient amount of cells by harvesting marrow from a younger family member who had previously donated the cord blood. Furthermore, advanced research studies on in vitro proliferation of stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood (in laboratories) are well underway. The first successful transplantations of in vitro cultured stem cells to patients have already been performed. As of 2018 several experimental techniques are on the way to the market i.e. NiCord.