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California’s Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program

California’s Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program

The benefits of cord blood

Uses for treatment and research

cord blood donation © UC Regents

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after a baby is born.

It is an important alternative to bone marrow for transplantation because it contains all the natural elements of blood and is rich in blood-forming stem cells, which are similar to those found in bone marrow but do not require as close a match between the donor and recipient.

Cord blood is used to treat a variety of diseases, ranging from anemia and cancers of the blood such as leukemia and lymphomas to disorders such as sickle cell disease and severe combined immunodeficiency (better known as “bubble boy disease").

Cord blood donations are particularly important for ethnic minorities due to a number of factors. For example, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians each make up a smaller portion of the U.S. population -- meaning less donors are available -- and they can also have a greater degree of genetic variation. Because a partial match is acceptable with cord blood, it allows more minority patients to find a suitable unit for treatment. In addition, African-Americans are more likely than others to suffer from sickle cell disease which can now benefit from cord blood transplants.

In general, minorities are more likely to find a suitable match from donors within their own ethnic groups.

Besides direct use in clinical treatments, researchers in regenerative medicine say umbilical cord blood also holds promise as an important source of stem cells that could be used for potential medical therapies and treatments.