Cord Blood Transplant – A Better Alternative to Bone Marrow Transplant

Cord blood transplant is not a new technique in the history of personalized medicine. Since 1988, it has been around and has been treating many critical diseases and disorders. Many scientists and doctors are of the opinion that cord blood makes a better alternative to bone marrow for patients, who require a stem cell transplant. Even though bone marrow is still a more popular choice for transplants, some medical incidents suggest that the scenario is gradually changing. You might also be wondering which one would be better option for you and why.  Let’s find out one by one.

What are Bone Marrow and Cord Blood Transplant and How are They Different

Both cord blood and bone marrow transplants are conducted in order to replace the affected and unhealthy cells with new and healthy cells. Umbilical cord blood is the source of cord blood stem cells while bone marrow is the source of bone marrow stem cells. Cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord after a baby is born. After collecting, the blood is processed to get stem cells and then it can be preserved for years. These stem cells can be used to treat many diseases within the close family of the child.

Bone marrow stem cells, on the other hand, are collected from a matching donor. The marrow is a spongy element inside our bones. The marrow is generally extracted from skull, ribs, hips, breastbone or spine. Stem cells are extracted from the marrow after filtration. It can then be injected into the affected area of the patient immediately or can also be preserved for later use.

Now let’s see which one is ideal, considering different situations.

In Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD), cord blood stem cells are preferred, where an organ transplant is involved. As cord blood is older than bone marrow, there is a relatively lower chance of getting an immune system attack by the new cells.

In case of Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matching, cord blood is considered a better option than bone marrow. HLA is the immune system marker that is used to identify foreign cells. Since cord blood stem cells are classified as the purer cells, there is no requirement for HLA matching altogether. One major problem with bone marrow transplant is, patients need to wait for the right donor. On the other hand, with cord blood this is not the case.

When it comes to rich source of stem cells, doctors prefer cord blood stem cells. The reason being, a greater number of stem cells are found in umbilical cord compared to bone marrow. Also, cord blood stem cells have more regenerative potential than bone marrow stem cells, as the former are younger in nature.

Cord blood transplants are considered a better option for patients, who are below 30 years and weigh less than 60kg. Cord blood transplants are ideal for patients with kidney, heart, liver or lung problems, where bone marrow transplant is not at all recommended.

However, no matter what you feel about both the procedures, make sure you consult your doctor before ending up with an option, because your doctor knows better than anyone else. If you have any query regarding cord blood and bone marrow transplant, you can write to us as well.


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