Since the first stem cell transplant occurred more than 50 years ago (1957), there has been a nearly exponential increase in stem cell transplants, and in late 2012, the millionth stem cell transplant occurred, a landmark event in stem cell medicine. Cord blood stem cells have distinct advantages over other sources, including that they are younger, more adaptable and more pure. These traits result from cord blood stem cells being the earliest (non-controversial) stem cells that can be extracted from a living human, and therefore haven’t been exposed to viruses, chemicals, or pollutants in the environment that can alter cell function.
While bone marrow stem cells are the most commonly recognized type of stem cell used in transplant, cord blood stem cells are increasingly showing advantages over other stem cell sources, including reduced immune reactions (such as GvHD) and a greater flexibility for HLA-mismatched cord blood units to be used in transplant. Although cord blood banks began offering their services in the United States in the mid–1990’s, it is within the past ten-years that the percentage of cord blood transplants has significantly increased.
Today, it is clear that the stem cells contained within cord blood banking have the potential to improve and save lives. Since the first cord blood transplant was performed in 1988, stem cells derived from umbilical blood have been used in more than 30,000 transplants worldwide.