What is Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood?

Newborn umbilical cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta after the baby is born and the cord has been clamped and then cut.  It is a rich source of primitive stem cells, which are genetically coded to your baby and your family line.  These cells are of particular value in that they play a role in the development of all the systems in the body, including tissue, organs and other complex functions.   Cord blood contains hematopoietic stem cells, progenitor cells which can form red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. They may be used to treat blood and immune system related genetic diseases, cancers and blood disorders.

The key benefit to stem cells is that they can develop into other types of cells, regenerating damaged systems or creating  new growth and development.   They also form the foundation of the immune system.  This unique property can provide a way to treat some inherited disorders included blood diseases like leukemia, anemia or other genetic conditions.  

Newborn umbilical cord blood stem cells can treat disease like bone marrow does.  The main advantage of using these newborn stem cells is that they are more primitive than those found in bone marrow, which results in lower rates of rejection if and when they are transplanted.

 These stem cells may be able to treat certain diseases or conditions of a parent or sibling, but are not typically able to treat any diseases of the newborn from which they were harvested.  This is due to the fact that any genetic abnormalities or diseases that the child later develops will be inherent to their umbilical cord blood as well.  For example, if the newborn were to develop leukemia later in childhood, his/her stem cells would also carry this genetic mutation and would not be able to treat the condition.  If, however, a sibling developed this disease, it's possible that the stem cells could be used to treat the sibling's disease.

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Page Last Modified by Catherine Beier, MS, CBE

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