Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Advantages and Disadvantages

Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Advantages and Disadvantages

Umbilical stem cells come from the umbilical cord and placenta blood following birth. They can only be harvested after birth and stored for later use in medical applications. The collection does not change the birth and is safe for mother and baby.


Cord blood stems cells are used to treat approximately 80 health conditions and is used in experimental treatments for cerebral palsy and Type I Diabetes. These cells have the capability to renew and become specialized in the repair or replacement of damaged and diseased cells.


These stem cells a resemblant of adult stem cells because they are specific to certain tissues. Stem cells collected postnatally are readily available and inexpensive with the ability to form different cells types. Scientists have also harvested stem cells from:

  • different fetal tissues
  • a fetus
  • amnion/placenta
  • umbilical cord vein
  • umbilical cord matrix cells


Umbilical stem cells are only approved for use in procedures for “hematopoietic stem cell transplantation”. These procedures are used on patients with disorders that affect the blood-forming system. This transplantation is used for patients needing regeneration or regrowth of blood-forming cells.


Examples of these disorders include:

  • leukemia
  • lymphoma
  • sickle cell
  • Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome


Although there are several advantages there are also several disadvantages to be aware of.

Potential advantages of cord blood stem cells include:

  • have the potential to treat a variety of blood diseases
  • matches the recipient more closely
  • less chance of rejection
  • ready supply and does not harm mother or baby


Disadvantages of cord blood include:

  • there is not enough to treat an adult with one collection
  • once transplanted, no more cells can be harvested from that source
  • cord blood stem cells require more time to graft than bone marrow transplants
  • no nationwide system for collection and storage of donated cord blood


To date, there are few hospitals that collect cord blood for later use and some only collect at certain times of the day which limits supplies. Some supplies are saved for use by the donor use at a later time.

Researchers continue to look for options to make a larger supply available and have taken into consideration the possibility of using cord blood from more than one donor per patient.

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