Overview of Umbilical Cord Blood

What is Umbilical Cord Blood?

The term ‘umbilical cord blood’ refers to the blood contained within the umbilical cord as well as the placenta. Considered as post-partum biological waste, it is typically discarded along with the placenta after a baby is born.

What types of cells are found within cord blood?

Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of hematopoietic, or blood-forming, stem cells. Hematopoietic stem cells, a type of adult, somatic stem cell, can develop into all three types of blood cells (RBCs, WBCs and platelets) and hold the potential to reconstitute an individual’s entire blood supply. These cells, in addition to the more abundant - and more specialized - cell types within cord blood, offer a novel source for both clinical and research applications.

What are the current uses of cord blood?

Since the first umbilical cord blood transplant in 1988, which cured a five-year old boy of Fanconi anemia, the use of cord blood in transplantation now encompasses 80+ different blood and immune disorders, ranging in classification from cancers to bone marrow failures and immunodeficiencies, to name a few. However, the existing risks and challenges associated with current treatment approaches, in tandem with technological evolution, necessitate the development of new and advanced therapies, introducing an unprecedented need for cord blood in research as well. This drive for innovative research, along with a growing need for cord blood at Stanford, laid the foundation for the Binns Program for Cord Blood Research.