Blue-dotted cells in a group.

Cord Blood Banking: A Guide to the Basics and Benefits

Cord blood banking has become an essential part of today’s birth planning, along with delayed cord clamping, what to do with your placenta, and how to bond with your baby in your first moments together. Since you only have one chance to save cord blood, it’s important to understand the potential benefits, the process, and the alternatives.  

What are Cord Blood Stem Cells?

Only available directly after birth, hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) from newborn umbilical cord blood are the precursors to all other types of blood cells and cellular components, with the potential to become red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, etc. These precious cells can survive outside the body, preserved for decades in a deep freeze, to be later thawed and revived if needed.

First discovered in 1961, HSCs have proven successful in treating many blood disorders, immune system deficiencies, cancers, and tumors. There are now over 80 FDA-approved treatments using stem cells from umbilical cord blood, and research continues to further unlock their hidden potential. Clinical trials worldwide are exploring the safety and efficacy of using HSCs to treat incurable blood cancers, cerebral palsy, type 1 diabetes, and other diseases.

What is Cord Blood Banking?

Cord blood banking preserves newborn umbilical cord blood stem cells. Right after the baby is born, this painless and non-intrusive process collects blood after the umbilical cord is cut.  The blood ships to a laboratory that separates the stem cells from the plasma and platelets.  The lab prepares the stem cells for cryopreservation and stores them in specially designed cryo bags and protective cartridges at subzero temperature in tanks using liquid nitrogen.

The cord blood bank provides the kit, arranges for bedside pick-up at the hospital, and handles all the testing, processing, and storage.  The OBGYN or midwife collects the blood after the baby is born.

What is a Cord Blood Bank?

Cord blood banks process and store newborn stem cells for either public or private use. Public cord blood banks store donated cord blood and make it available for treatments and clinical research. There is no charge to the donor – the recipient pays all the costs when the stem cells are withdrawn.  Cord blood donors relinquish all rights to their stem cells and have no say in how the cells are ultimately used.

Private cord blood banks collect and store stem cells specifically for a family’s use.  The family pays collection, processing, and storage fees and retains control over their baby’s stem cells.

A Brief History of Cord Blood Banking

Cord blood treatments began in 1988 when Dr. Hal Broxmeyer stored HSCs from Matthew Farrow’s newborn baby sister and used them to successfully treat Matthew’s Fanconi anemia. Spurred by this success, public cord blood banking began in 1992 with the establishment of the New York Blood Center. Since then, the cord blood banking process has rapidly expanded to include public and private banks worldwide.

A close-up image of an umbilical cord.

What are the Benefits of Cord Blood Banking?

Treatments using umbilical cord blood stem cells are now projected to benefit at least 1 in 3 people during their lifetime. Cord blood offers compelling advantages over alternative treatments such as bone marrow, peripheral blood, and prescription drugs, including the following.

  • Cord blood stem cell transplants are a natural treatment: Unlike prescription drugs, cord blood stem cell treatments use the body’s inherent immune and regenerative properties to improve health and wellness.
  • Cord blood stem cells are a perfect genetic match to a baby:  HSCs are a 100% genetic match to a baby, and can potentially be used to treat other family members, including siblings.
  • Cord blood is better than bone marrow:  According to Bioinformant, cord blood is superior to bone marrow and peripheral blood, both medically and financially.
  • Cord blood stem cells are immunologically naïve, making them more flexible than adult stem cells.
  • Cord blood is less costly than bone marrow transplants on a per-procedure basis.
  • Cord blood transplants have a low risk of tumor growth, low risk of viral contamination, and high cell proliferation capacity.
  • Cord blood has less risk of complications when used in transplants, most notably lower incidence rates for the graft-vs-host disease.

A small volume of cord blood can be used in transplants, while bone marrow transplants require a quart or more of bone marrow, as well as blood.

Latent viral infection is rare in cord blood donors. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is present in <1% of U.S. cord blood donors, but >50% of U.S. adult bone marrow donors.

Cord blood transplants require a less perfect HLA match than bone marrow.  Bone marrow transplants generally require a perfect match of HLA antigens, while HLA- mismatched cord blood transplants are possible (making it easier to find a genetically compatible match).

  • You can access your cord blood stem cells anytime: With private cord blood banking options, you have access to your baby’s cord blood if you ever need it. There’s no need to search for a donor match or wait for one to become available.
  • Collecting cord blood is simple: The collection procedure is painless and unobtrusive. It won’t interfere with the first bonding moments with your baby and is totally compatible with delayed cord clamping. Once you’ve ordered the kit, completed the paperwork, and call when the kit is ready for pick up, your work is done.

Storing your baby’s cord blood is one of the best things you can do for your family. It’s simple and risk-free. And if you bank with Americord, you get to save up to two times the amount of cord blood stem cells than the industry average.


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