Bone marrow transplants can treat and even cure some types of genetic disorders and blood diseases. Key to this potentially life-saving procedure is finding a matching donor. Not all patients, however, are able to find a match among their relatives. In those cases, searching for an unrelated, matched donor can be a long, stressful, and possibly unsuccessful process—especially for ethnic and racial minorities.
Blood from human umbilical cords acquired soon after a baby is born contains a small number of the adult stem cells that mature into healthy blood cells. Umbilical cord blood donation poses little risk to donors, and the life-saving blood can be stored frozen for years (albeit for a fee if it is stored through a private company).
For more than 15 years, the NHLBI has supported research into the safety and effectiveness of transplanting cord blood that has been donated by people unrelated to the patients who need it. Studies are ongoing in sickle cell disease, severe aplastic anemia, and myelodysplastic syndromes, as is research to improve the yield of blood-forming stem cells from cord blood.
July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month. We encourage you to learn more about cord blood research and the importance of participating in clinical trials to advance scientific knowledge and improve the treatment of disease. A different way to help someone in need is to register as a bone marrow donor.