A close up image of a cell.

Bone Marrow vs. Cord Blood Stem Cell Transplant

Since 1998, advances in cord blood technology have made cord blood transplants a viable alternative to traditional bone marrow transplants in patients requiring a stem cell transplant. While bone marrow transplants continue to be a more common procedure, evidence suggests this trend may be changing. Is a cord blood transplant really a more effective procedure? The truth is, it depends on the circumstance.

What are Cord Blood and Bone Marrow Transplants?

Both bone marrow and cord blood stem cell transplants are designed to replace unhealthy cells with healthy ones.

A bone marrow transplant involves the use of bone marrow that is transplanted from a donor into a recipient to cultivate new stem cells. Bone marrow is a spongy tissue located inside the bones. Most commonly, bone marrow is extracted from the breastbone, skull, hips, ribs, or spine, as these contain stem cells that produce white blood cells (leukocytes), which fight against infection; red blood cells (erythrocytes), which carry oxygen in order to eliminate waste from the organs and tissue; and platelets, which are responsible for making the blood clot. Bone marrow is removed from the donor under a general anesthetic. It is filtered, treated, and either transplanted immediately into the recipient, or tested, frozen, and stored for later use.

Cord blood is collected from a newborn’s umbilical cord after delivery, so that it may be tested, frozen, and subsequently stored in a cord blood bank for future use.

Cord Blood Transplant vs. Bone Marrow Transplant

There are many different criteria used to evaluate whether or not a cord blood transplant is right for you. When making your decision, it is important that both you and your doctor keep the following in mind:

A table defining Graft Versus Host Disease (GvHD) A table explaining HLA matching. A table displaying the sources of stem cells. A table defining the availability of cord blood stem cells. A table comparing cord blood and bone marrow transplant procedures. A table displaying Graft Rejection and its definition.

In addition, cord blood transplants are generally better-suited for those younger than 30 years and, depending upon the number of available stem cells, may not be suited for patients over a certain weight. Bone marrow transplants, on the other hand, are not recommended for individuals with kidney, lung, liver, or heart conditions.


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