It’s a numbers game: improving cord blood stem cell transplantation success

What is this research about?

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) present in our bone marrow generate all the cells of our blood system. Throughout our lifetime, they continuously generate our red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. HSCs can be isolated and transplanted to save the lives of patients with some types of cancer or blood disorders. After transplantation, HSCs settle (engraft) in the recipient’s bone marrow, where they begin to proliferate and generate the cells of the hematopoietic system to replace the defective or malignant cells that were originally there.

There are three ways to collect HSCs for transplantation. The two most common ways are collecting from the bone marrow or whole blood of an adult donor. HSCs can also be collected from the cord blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. There are several advantages to using HSCs from cord blood, including availability (umbilical cord blood is usually discarded after birth) and flexibility: because the immune cells in cord blood are less mature, a patient  who is unable to find a matching adult donor may be able to find a matching cord blood unit.

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