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Medical Uses for Cord Blood

Cord blood potentially can be used in both transplant medicine and regenerative medicine — areas in which stem cells are used to treat myriad injuries and diseases. The cord blood stem cells are biologically younger and have advantages over other stem cell sources such as bone marrow, including:

  • less risk of complications when used in transplants
  • they are immediately available
  • freezing protects them from environmental damage, age and viruses that affect the stem cells in our bodies over time.
  • cord blood stem cells are not embryonic stem cells, and they are not controversial.

The potentially life-saving applications of cord blood extend not only to the baby, but also to his or her biological family as well. Immediate family members, especially siblings, may match the cord blood enough to use it for transplant medicine.

Stem Cell Use in Transplant Medicine

For over two decades, cord blood has been used in transplant medicine to treat more than 80 diseases. These include:

  • Cancers such as leukemias, lymphomas and high-risk solid tumors
  • Blood disorders such as sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia
  • Immune disorders such as chronic granulomatous disease and leukocyte adhesion deficiency
  • Metabolic disorders such as Krabe disease and Hurler Syndrome

For inherited genetic conditions, a child would not be able to use his or her own stem cells. Instead, a matched sibling's stem cells would be the first choice.

Stem Cell Use in Regenerative Medicine

There is much research being done on the use of cord blood in regenerative medicine where the stem cells may induce healing or regenerate cells to repair tissues. This very exciting area of medicine is exploring stem cells in the treatment of cerebral palsy, juvenile diabetes, heart repair, bone repair and spinal cord injury.

Because a person’s own (autologous) cord blood stem cells can be used medically without being rejected by the body’s immune system, autologous stem cells are an increasing focus of regenerative medicine research.

As cord blood stem cell research advances in both transplant and regenerative medicine, so does the potential for future uses. Experimental therapies that may not have seemed possible 15 years ago are being explored today in FDA-regulated clinical trials


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