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What is Cord Blood Transplantation?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Cord blood transplantation is becoming an increasingly popular treatment for various types of blood diseases, including cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia. This blood is taken from the placenta and umbilical cords of newborn babies and can be used for virtually any condition in which bone marrow has traditionally been used. Cord blood contains the same blood-forming cells that are found in bone marrow, but the wait time for transplant is generally considerably less in cord blood transplantation.

Once cord blood has been collected from the placenta and umbilical cord, the blood is tested and then frozen for storage at a cord blood center. This blood is then listed on a national registry and matched with patients who could benefit from cord blood transplantation. Cord blood can be used for people of all ages, but children are the most frequent recipients. This is because the supply of cord blood is very limited, and children typically need fewer cells than adults.

There are several benefits to cord blood transplantation that make it a more desirable choice than bone marrow transplant in many patients. While a close match is preferred, cord blood is often more successful than bone marrow when the match is not as close as desired. The waiting list for cord blood is often shorter as well.

While there are some advantages of cord blood transplantation over bone marrow transplantation, there are also a few reasons a doctor may not choose this as the best option for the patient. For instance, there may not be enough cord blood cells available for the particular needs of the patient, making other donor options, such as bone marrow transplant, a better fit for the patient. Cord blood cells tend to take longer to begin to grow after transplant than bone marrow cells, which leaves the patient at a greater risk of developing complications such as infection. Since cord blood transplantation is a relatively new procedure, it has not been studied as extensively as other options, making some doctors reluctant to use this method of transplant.

Cord blood transplantation continues to be studied by scientists and other medical professionals, and there is research suggesting that cord blood may one day be able to help patients with a variety of other medical conditions in addition to the ones currently being treated with this procedure. As more research is done and more doctors become comfortable performing this type of transplant, it is hoped that those suffering from any type of blood disease will have more treatment options available. A patient needing a bone marrow transplant should consider discussing this treatment option with his or her physician.

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