What is Human Cord Blood?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
The blood from the umbilical cord of a newborn has valuable stem cells.
The blood from the umbilical cord of a newborn has valuable stem cells.

Human cord blood refers to the blood that is stored in the umbilical cord after it is detached from an infant at birth. This blood is known to be a particularly rich source of stem cells, and may prove a considerably useful tool in the treatment of certain diseases as well as in other medical applications. Much medical attention and research has been focused on the study and possible uses of human cord blood in medicine.

An umbilical cord is a thick, blood-rich cord that connects a baby to its mother during the gestation process.
An umbilical cord is a thick, blood-rich cord that connects a baby to its mother during the gestation process.

During gestation, the umbilical cord is the lifeline between a growing fetus and a placenta. The cord pumps blood to the baby, giving it a supply of oxygenated blood as well as nutrients. In addition, the umbilical cord also takes away nutrient and oxygen-depleted blood. After birth, the umbilical cord is detached from the baby as it is no longer necessary for survival. Generally, the cord is discarded as medical waste, but a growing trend allows parents to choose to harvest and store the human cord blood in a blood banking facility for possible use in the future.

The reason why human cord blood is considered valuable to medicine is that it contains a large amount of undifferentiated stem cells. These are cells that are capable of dividing through mitosis and specializing into many specific types of cells, thus being useful in a wide variety of treatments for disease. Collecting stem cells from human cord blood often helps avoid the controversy created by the use of embryonic stem cells.

The stem cells in human cord blood have been used in a variety of treatments. In many leukemia and cancer treatments, cord blood cells have been transplanted in lieu of the traditionally-used bone marrow stem cells. Some experts believe that using stem cells from human cord blood reduces the risk of transplant failure, especially if the blood being used is from the patient or a close relative. Some evidence also indicates that it may finding a suitable donor match may be considerably easier with this type of stem cell.

There are many private institutions that provide human cord blood banking. Before the baby is born, a kit will be sent with the necessary harvesting and transporting devices. At the birth, a physician or nurse trained in cord blood extraction will harvest the blood from the umbilical cord after it has been clamped off the infant. The blood is then sent to a storage facility. It is important to note that some cord blood banks reserve human cord blood only for the use of the donor and the donor's family, while others allow donors to withdraw any blood that may be a good match.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a writer.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a writer.

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    • The blood from the umbilical cord of a newborn has valuable stem cells.
      By: hansenn
      The blood from the umbilical cord of a newborn has valuable stem cells.
    • An umbilical cord is a thick, blood-rich cord that connects a baby to its mother during the gestation process.
      By: massimo maghenzani
      An umbilical cord is a thick, blood-rich cord that connects a baby to its mother during the gestation process.