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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
Blood Cell Transplant

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The Need for More Cord Blood Donations

Each year, thousands of people are diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, or certain immune system or genetic metabolic disorders. Many of these patients need an umbilical cord blood or bone marrow transplant (also called a BMT). Because the factors that determine a suitable match for bone marrow or umbilical cord blood are inherited, a match from a sibling or other family member is often sought first. However, 70 percent of patients will not find a matching donor in their family. For these patients, a transplant of bone marrow or cord blood from an unrelated donor may be their best treatment option.

A bone marrow or cord blood transplant replaces diseased blood-forming cells with healthy cells. Cells for a transplant can come from the marrow of a donor or from the blood of the umbilical cord collected after a baby is born. Sometimes the unique qualities of umbilical cord blood make it a better choice of blood-forming cells for transplant.

The United States Congress recognized the need to help more patients who need a bone marrow or cord blood transplant and passed the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005, Public Law 109-129 (Stem Cell Act 2005) and the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2010, Public Law 111-264 (Stem Cell Act 2010). These acts include support for umbilical cord blood transplantation and research.

Learn how umbilical cord blood may be especially helpful and how the Stem Cell Acts of 2005 and 2010 are helping patients.

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Umbilical Cord Blood May Help When Other Sources Cannot

The chances of a successful bone marrow or cord blood transplant are better when the blood-forming cells are from a donor who closely matches the patient. However, studies suggest that cord blood may not need to match as closely as is required for a marrow donor. Umbilical cord blood may be especially promising for:

  • Patients who have difficulty finding a matched marrow donor
  • Patients from diverse heritages who often have an uncommon tissue type
  • Patients who have a life-threatening genetic disorder
  • Patients who need a transplant quickly

To learn about matching blood-forming cells for a transplant, see HLA Matching: Finding the Best Donor or Cord Blood Unit. exit disclaimer

Racial and Ethnic Diversity is Needed

Although cord blood can help patients who cannot find a well-matched marrow donor, matching is still important. Cord blood is especially needed from communities such as:

  • Black and African-American
  • American Indian and Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Hispanic and Latino
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
  • Multiple-race

Umbilical cord blood may offer more people from many diverse racial and ethnic communities a second chance at life.

Helping Patients

The Stem Cell Acts of 2005 and 2010 help patients who have life-threatening diseases and may need a cord blood or marrow transplant. These acts:

  • Created the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI). The goal of the NCBI is to collect and store at least 150,000 new cord blood units. These cord blood units are used for patients who need a transplant but do not have a matching donor within their family. To continue improving the success of transplants, the NCBI banks will provide additional cord blood units for research.
  • Allowed for an increase in funding for marrow and umbilical cord blood transplantation and research through the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program (Program).   

One component of the Program, the Cord Blood Coordinating Center, has a network of cord blood banks, including some banks that are receiving Federal support to build the NCBI. The Cord Blood Coordinating Center works with its network of cord blood banks to recruit expectant parents for umbilical cord blood donations and to distribute cord blood units listed on the registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, also called the Be The Match Registry®. The registry is a listing of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units.

Learn how patients who need a transplant are being given hope by the Be the Match Registry. exit disclaimer

Having more cord blood units available through the NCBI and the Cord Blood Coordinating Center means that more patients have a better chance of receiving a potentially life-saving transplant.

Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Acts of 2005 and 2010

Read about the bills that were passed by the United States Congress to help patients who need a cord blood or bone marrow transplant.

Hospitals That Collect Cord Blood for Public Donation

See if your hospital collects cord blood for public donation and then contact the listed public cord blood bank to determine your eligibility.