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Cord blood banking

Stem cells are collected from the umbilical cord shortly after the baby is born. They are separated from the cord blood, frozen and stored until they are needed. Cord blood banks or programs usually process and store cord blood.

Collecting cord blood

The mother gives permission to have the baby’s cord blood collected.

  • Right after the baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped.
  • The cord is cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
  • A needle is inserted into the umbilical vein of the cord.
  • Blood is withdrawn through the needle into a sterile container, which contains a solution that stops the blood from clotting. On average, about 75 mL (2.5 ounces) of cord blood is collected.

Testing and storing cord blood

After cord blood is collected, it is sent to a facility for testing and storage. Testing procedures can include:

  • HLA typing so that it can be matched with a potential recipient
  • testing for infections, such as HIV, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and hepatitis

The blood is mixed with a preservative, frozen and stored at a very low temperature for future use. Some cord blood banks or programs store the stem cells until the family needs them (private use). Other facilities store cord blood to be used in people who are unrelated (public use).

When it is needed for a stem cell transplant, the cord blood is thawed and infused into the recipient. The length of time that cord blood can be stored without losing its effectiveness is not fully known. Cord blood has been stored up to 5 years and successfully transplanted. The potential supply of cord blood is so great that cord blood banks could continually replenish old supplies with new ones.

Donating cord blood

Healthy parents (with healthy children) who are expecting another baby, or couples expecting their first child, can donate their child’s cord blood.

Some eligibility criteria may apply:

  • Parents usually have to register with the cord blood bank or program during the pregnancy.
  • Some preliminary blood screening tests may be done on the mother before collection.
  • Parents must report any illnesses that run in the family or that have occurred during or before the pregnancy that could be transmitted by a cord blood transplant.
  • Some private cord blood banks or programs may charge collection and storage fees.

cytomegalovirus (CMV)

A type of herpes virus that causes severe pneumonia in people with suppressed immune systems.

Also called Human herpesvirus 5 (HHV-5).


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