Sep 16 2016

HLA Typing and Stem Cell Transplants

Posted by Alysha

More than 130,000 people are diagnosed with blood cancer in the United States every year.  Bone marrow and umbilical cord blood stem cell transplants are some of the most common treatment options for these cancers. Transplants are quite the process, and involve HLA typing prior to donation, but can warrant long term, successful results for patients.

To participate in a transplant, patients must first find a donor that is a suitable genetic match to their own. This is important because if a donor’s genetic code is not similar to the patient’s, their body will reject the donor stem cells.

Donors can be found a number of ways — through family, bone marrow registries, public cord blood bank, or family cord blood banking. To ensure that a transplant will be successful, the patient and the donor must go through HLA typing.

What is HLA Typing?

HLA typing is the matching of proteins or markers to ensure that a patient’s genetic code is close to their donor’s. A proper match through HLA typing increases the likelihood of a successful transplant, improves engraftment and reduces complications after the transplant. For more general information on HLA typing and matching please watch this video from Be The Match.

Cord Blood and HLA Typing

Cord blood has an advantage over bone marrow in HLA typing. To create the best possibilities for a successful transplant, cord blood must match 4 out of 6 proteins or markers. Bone Marrow must meet 6 out of 8. This means an umbilical cord blood transplant does not need to match as closely as bone marrow.

Match requirements like this are beneficial for the following patients:

  • Patients who have trouble finding a matched marrow donor
  • Patients from diverse heritages who often have an uncommon tissue type
  • Patients who have a life-threatening genetic disorder
  • Patients who need a transplant quickly

See the chart below for an example of a patient/donor matching:



Cord blood can potentially help 20,000 people from newborn to 74-year-olds in the Unites States every year. It is crucial to be informed on the potential life saving advantages of cord blood and cord blood banking.

For more information on cord blood banking, please visit Americord online.

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