What are the advantages of using blood stem cells from cord blood compared to those from the bone marrow?
Painless and Risk-free Collection
Blood stem cells from cord blood are easier to harvest. The harvesting process does not entail any risk to both mother and child. Harvesting blood stem cells from the bone marrow requires general anaesthesia, which entails some health risk. Bone marrow harvesting also involves some pain, as opposed to no pain at all with cord blood harvesting.
The stored cord blood stem cells are always readily available. This is a potential advantage as we do not waste precious time searching for potential blood stem cell donors. In some conditions, e.g. Aplastic Anemia, the time to a stem cell transplant is critical and having some blood stem cells readily available is very important and can minimise disease progression.
Benefits of Cord Blood Stem Cells
Cord blood is less likely to contain certain infectious agents like some viruses such as cytomegalovirus that can pose a risk to transplant recipients. Some studies suggest that cord blood may have a greater ability to generate new blood cells than bone marrow. Ounce for ounce, there are nearly 10 times as many blood-producing cells in cord blood. This fact suggests that a smaller number of cord blood cells are needed for a successful transplantation.
Easier to Match
Stem cell transplants using cord blood has less Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) and is therefore less risky for the recipient. This is because cord blood stem cells are less mature than those from the bone marrow and peripheral blood, and can successfully be used even when there is only a half-match. Due to lower GVHD risk, cord blood transplants can be attempted even if there is no perfect HLA matching. In private cord blood banking, the stored blood stem cells are kept for the individual. In view of the above, the stored cord blood stem cells can potentially be used for other family members.