Cord blood is a sample of blood taken from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord. It is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells, which are precursors to blood cells. As such, they have been used to treat certain diseases of the blood and immune system. The next largest group is inherited diseases (of red blood cells, the immune system and certain metabolic abnormalities.) Patients with lymphoma, myelodysplasia and severe aplastic anemia have also been successfully transplanted with cord blood.
Cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord vein attached to the placenta after the umbilical cord has been detached from the newborn. Cord blood is collected because it contains stem cells, including hematopoietic cells, which can be used to treat hematopoietic and genetic disorders. One unit of cord blood generally lacks stem cells in a quantity sufficient to treat an adult patient. The placenta is a much better source of stem cells since it contains up to ten times more than cord blood.