What is Cord Blood?

After a baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, some blood remains in the blood vessels of the placenta and the portion of the umbilical cord that remains attached to it. After birth, the baby no longer needs this extra blood. This blood is called placental blood or umbilical cord blood: "cord blood" for short.

Cord blood contains all the normal elements of blood - red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. But it is also rich in hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells, similar to those found in bone marrow. This is why cord blood can be used for transplantation as an alternative to bone marrow.

Cord blood is being used increasingly on an experimental basis as a source of stem cells, as an alternative to bone marrow. Most cord blood transplants have been performed in patients with blood and immune system diseases. Cord Blood transplants have also been performed for patients with genetic or metabolic diseases.  More than 80 different diseases have been treated to date with cord blood transplants.  

Scientists are investigating the possibility that stem cells in cord blood may be able to replace cells of other tissues such as nerve or heart cells. Whether cord blood can be used to treat other kinds of diseases will be learned from this research.

Cord blood collection is easy and poses no medical risk to the mother or newborn baby.

Cord blood collection is a safe, simple procedure. Mid wife’s or other professionals collect cord blood from the delivered placenta, in a way that does not interfere with the care of the mother or newborn baby. Collection, therefore, poses no risk to mother or baby.

What is cord blood used for?

Cord blood has been used in the treatment of more than 80 different diseases so far. The most common disease category has been leukemia. The next largest group is inherited diseases (of red blood cells, the immune system and certain metabolic abnormalities.) Patients with lymphoma, myelodysplasia and severe aplastic anemia have also been successfully treated with cord blood.