Womens Health

Cord Blood versus Marrow Transplants

While recent advances in cord blood technology have made cord blood transplants an increasingly viable option for many individuals, marrow transplants were long the standard recommended medical procedure for stem cell transplants. While a bone marrow transplant is still more prevalent than a cord blood transplant, both of these stem cell transplant procedures have their own set of benefits as well as side effects when it comes to the treatment of serious diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia. In other words, each stem cell transplant procedure is more suitable under distinct circumstances.

What is a Cord Blood Transplant?

A cord blood transplant is a procedure in which stem cells are collected from the umbilical cord and placenta of a newborn baby. The umbilical cord and placenta, which are rich in stem cells, are then tested, frozen and stored in a special cord blood unit for future use.

What is A Bone Marrow Transplant?

A bone marrow transplant is a procedure in which bone marrow is transplanted from the donor into the recipient in order to cultivate new stem cells. Bone marrow is the spongy tissue located inside of the bones. Bone marrow found in the breastbone, skull, hips, ribs and spine contain stem cells which produce blood cells: white blood cells (leukocytes) which fight against infection; red blood cells (erythrocytes) which carry oxygen in order to eliminate waste from the organs and tissue; platelets which have the ability to make blood clot.

During a bone marrow transplant, bone barrow is removed from the donor's hipbone while under a general anesthetic. It is then filtered, treated and transplanted immediately into the recipient, or tested, frozen and stored for later use.

Cord Blood Transplant versus Bone Marrow Transplant

When deciding between whether a cord blood transplant or a bone marrow transplant is a better choice for you, it is important to look at a broad range of criteria:

    Graft Versus Host Disease Cord Blood Preferred
    Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) can be fatal in up to 40% of patients. Unlike bone marrow, cord blood is more primitive and therefore there is a lower chance that cord blood cells will attack the recipient's body, resulting in a lower incidence of GVHD.
    HLA Matching Cord Blood Preferred
    In order for a transplant to be successful, a match that is as close as possible is needed in order to reduce the risk of GVHD. Because stem cells found in cord blood are younger, they are more adaptable and so a perfect match is not needed. This allows for a wider range of recipients to be treated and reduces the risk of GVHD.
    Rich Source of Stem Cells Cord Blood Preferred
    Cord blood is believed to contain 10 times the amount of stem cells found in bone marrow of an equal portion.
    Regenerative Source Cord Blood Preferred
    Because stem cells found in cord blood are younger, they are more likely than stem cells found in bone marrow to have proliferative properties; this means that stem cells found in cord blood have a greater ability to regenerate.
    Availability Cord Blood Preferred
    Some 30 000 individuals are diagnosed annually with diseases that require stem cell transplants. However, of these individuals, 75% do not have a matching relative for a bone marrow transplant and 70% cannot find a matching donor. Because severe types of cancer as well as certain immune deficiencies and blood disorders such as specific cases of anemia require prompt treatment, many individuals die before they are able to find a bone marrow transplant donor. On the other hand, cord blood banking means that cord blood is readily available for transplants, a fact which is true of both private and public banking.
    Pain Cord Blood Preferred
    A cord blood transplant offers a quick and painless collection procedure since the stem cells are removed from the umbilical cord. On the other hand, a blood marrow transplant is an invasive procedure which requires a general anesthesia. Bone marrow is removed from the rear of the pelvic bone through a series of injections.
    Graft Rejection Bone Marrow Preferred
    A recent study found that 11% of cord blood did not take, while only 2% of bone marrow transplants were unsuccessful. Graft rejection occurs when a patient's body destroys the newly transplanted marrow.

In addition, cord blood transplants are generally better suited for children and adults who weigh less than 110 pounds. Bone marrow transplants are not recommended for individuals with kidney, lung, liver or heart diseases or disorders.

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