Cord Blood

What are cord blood stem cells?

The umbilical cord is a tube-like structure connecting the foetus to the placenta in mother's womb, providing nutrients and removing waste from baby. Cord blood, which is also called "placental blood", is blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following the birth of a baby and after the umbilical cord is cut after delivery. Through the science of cord blood banking, cord blood can help nurture life, long after a baby's birth and provide a source of stem cells should the need ever arise for a stem cell transplant. This is because cord blood is a rich source of stem cells known as haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). These HSCs are primarily responsible for replenishing blood and regenerating the immune system.

Cord blood stem cell transplants are used in the following ways:

  • Replace and regenerate damaged or diseased bone marrow
  • Treatment for blood cancers
  • Correct genetic defects (sibling/allogeneic transplantation)
  • Potential for cellular therapy and regenerative medicine
They have the unique ability to differentiate into various cell types found in blood as depicted in the diagram below:

Red Blood Cells

Carry oxygen to all cells in the body

White Blood Cells

Fight infection


Assist blood clotting in the event of injury

Why Save Cord Blood Stem Cells

  • A guaranteed match for autologous transplants (where the donor and recipient are the same individual).

    Autologous stem cell transplants refer to transplants where the donor and recipient of the stem cells are the same individual. The cord blood that you are storing for your baby today is a potential medical resource for the future, and does not require stringent matching as opposed to conventional bone marrow stem cell transplants. About 70% of patients who need a transplant are unable to find a suitable match within the family1.
  • A Readily Available Supply of Stored Haematopoietic Stem Cells

    In the event of an already time-critical situation where stem cells are required for a transplant, having your child’s cord blood stored compares well to having to do a national or international search which is both costly and time-consuming. The cost of procuring a cord blood sample in Singapore can cost up to $75,0002, and that is, if a match is found.
  • Lower risk of Graft vs. Host Disease (GvHD) for autologous transplants

    Graft vs. Host Disease refers to a common complication where the transplanted tissue attacks the patient's own tissue. This disease will usually occur in transplants when the donor and recipient are different.
  • Ease of collection, which is pain-free and risk-free to both mother and child.

    Cord blood collection is a relatively easy task, which is handled by your own delivering doctor (OBGYN). This process does not affect the birthing process in any way and can be done on both natural and c-section births.
  • Umbilical cord blood stem cells are younger and more primitive

    In comparison to other types of stem cells, e.g bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cells, there is a notably higher rate of engraftment. This means the cells are faster in growing and making healthy blood stem cells and are more tolerant to tissue mismatches.
  • 1 in 217 chances of using stem cells for treatment in a lifetime

    Statistics have shown that 1 in every 217 persons may need stem cells for treatment in their lifetime3. Your baby’s cord blood contains a rich source of such stem cells. Since 1988, doctors have used cord blood stem cells to treat more than 30,000 patients4 suffering from diseases such as certain cancers like leukaemia, blood disorders as well as those in clinical trials

1 Be The Match website. Assessed 21 Jul 2014
2Joan Chew (July 18, 2013). Criterion for new stem-cell transplant. The Straits Times.
3 Nietfeld JJ, Pasquini MC, Logan BR, Verter F, Horowitz MM. Lifetime probabilities of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in the U.S Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation. 2008;14:316-322
4 Ballen KK, Gluckman E, Broxmeyer HE. Umbilical cord blood transplantation: The first 25 years and beyond. 2013; Blood: 122(4)