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What are the Pros and Cons of Cord Blood Treatment?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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The pros of cord blood treatment are numerous, as life saving techniques are pioneered and new uses for cord blood are discovered every year. Benefits include the blood being safe to extract, that the recipient doesn’t have to be an exact match to the donor, that the blood is readily available once properly stored, that cord blood tends to be cleaner and less likely to harbor diseases, and that cord blood is less likely to be rejected or cause problems in the recipient. There are some drawbacks to cord blood treatment, however, and they include a lower quantity of stem cells than in more mature blood. Patients will also have to find a new donor if more blood is required, since the infant who donated the first batch may or may not still be available for donation or may not be an exact match.

Cord blood treatment is gaining popularity as more cord blood banks are becoming available for storage and testing. Donations have to be tested for diseases and other abnormalities before they can be used in a recipient. Occasionally there are genetic disorders present in the blood that can’t be detected in standard blood tests and that do not cause problems for several years. This can make cord blood treatment slightly risky, although these disorders are very rare.

There are many benefits to cord blood treatment when compared with more conventional transplants. Umbilical cord blood is less likely to cause an adverse reaction in patients and the recipient does not have to find an exact match in order to receive treatment. Only certain components of the blood must match to be successful. There is also less of a chance that cord blood will be tainted with diseases and other defects, although all blood is tested prior to storage.

The use of cord blood treatment also offers a risk-free extraction process and is less controversial than stem cell transplants done using embryos. Blood is drawn directly from the umbilical cord and placenta and it causes no pain or difficulties for the mother or the newborn. Additionally, parents can donate their child’s blood for free to be stored in a public banking facility. They can also choose to have it stored for themselves by paying a private bank.

Although drawbacks are relatively minor in comparison with the benefits, cord blood does have issues that everyone should be aware of. For one, relatively few stem cells are contained in such a small amount of blood when compared to other donations, so if more are needed or the first treatment doesn’t work, another donor will be required. This donor usually does not come from the original cord blood donor because in that case both people would have to be an exact match. Occasionally, diseases or conditions may be missed during testing and the blood is given to a recipient, but this is very rare.

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