Cord Blood Banking

Meaning and Definition

A cord blood bank is a facility which stores umbilical cord blood for future use. Both private and public cord blood banks have developed since the mid to late 1990s in response to the potential for cord blood transplants in treating diseases of the blood and immune systems. However, cord blood is not recommended to be stored in a private bank for the vast majority of cases.[1]


After a baby is delivered, the mother's body releases the placenta, the temporary organ that transferred oxygen and nutrients to the baby while in the mother's uterus. Until recently, in most cases the umbilical cord and placenta were discarded after birth without a second thought.

But during the 1970s, researchers discovered that umbilical cord blood could supply the same kinds of blood-forming (hematopoietic) stem cells as a bone marrow donor. And so, umbilical cord blood began to be collected and stored.[2]

How is cord blood collected?

The cord blood collection process is simple, safe, and painless. It is usually completed in less than five minutes by your health care provider. Cord blood collection does not interfere with delivery and is possible with vaginal or cesarean deliveries. Your health care provider will use one of two options for cord blood collection: syringe method or bag method.

* Syringe method: a syringe is used to draw blood from the umbilical cord shortly after the umbilical cord has been cut. The process is basically the same as drawing blood for a blood test.
* Bag method: the umbilical cord is elevated to cause the blood to drain into a bag.[3]

Public banks accept donations to be used for anyone in need. Unlike private cord blood banking, public cord blood banking is supported by the medical community. However, there are very strict regulations which public banks need to follow in order to enable the donated units to be added to a registry. Generally an expectant mother interested in donation should contact the bank before the 34th week of pregnancy. The National Marrow Donor Program has a list of public cord blood banks on their website. Once the blood is donated, it loses all identifying information after a short period of initial testing.[4]

What are blood-forming stem cells?
These are primitive (early) cells found primarily in the bone marrow that are capable of developing into the three types of mature blood cells present in our blood - red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Cord-blood stem cells may also have the potential to give rise to other cell types in the body.

Some serious illnesses (such as certain childhood cancers, blood diseases, and immune system disorders) require radiation and chemotherapy treatments to kill diseased cells in the body. Unfortunately, these treatments also kill many "good" cells along with the bad, including healthy stem cells that live in the bone marrow.[5]

cord blood banking



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