Cord blood banking provides a new lease of life not only for the baby, but also for all existing as well as future additions to a family. It has been scientifically proven that this blood can be used with great effect by a sister, brother, and immediate family members, in addition to the baby. 

These days, many parents are keen to explore the possibilities of cord blood banking. This brief article explains who can use the umbilical cord blood and why. 

Importance of the Disease being treated:   

The disease being treated is often the foremost factor that determines whether the cord blood can be used. The baby’s own cord blood can be used for the treatment of some diseases. These autologous transplants or infusions have delivered positive results for treating health conditions such as stroke, cerebral palsy, autism, and more.  There are certain specific diseases that can’t be treated with the cord blood belonging to the baby.  Often times, these conditions are genetic in nature. However, in these cases, the cord blood of a sibling can provide the required lifesaving stem cells. This is why families should consider cord blood banking for all their children. 

HLA Matching and its Importance: 

Human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) were discovered by scientists in 1958. This is a type of protein found on the cell surfaces and their function is to help the body distinguish its own cells from a foreign cell. HLAs are responsible for the response of the immune system to foreign cells such as bacteria and viruses. This discovery led to the first-ever bone marrow transplant from unrelated sources in 1973. 

Half of the HLA genes are inherited from the mother and the remaining half is inherited from the father. In order to be eligible for a transplant or infusion, cord blood generally requires three or four HLA markers to match out of six. On the other hand, bone marrow transplantation often requires a six-out-of-six match. 

In the case of haploidentical transplants, as long as the donor and patient are immediate relatives, a 50% match is considered to be sufficient. This expands the scope of cord blood usage to the parents as well as other immediate family members with a partial match. 

Graft-versus-Host Disease:

HLA-matching plays an integral role in ensuring that the new cells are accepted by the body and the transplant is successful. It also helps minimize the likelihood of graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). This disease is the result of the transplanted cells attacking the body of the recipient. If the match is better, the outcome will also be better and there will be little or no GvHD symptoms.  

When the match is not perfect, there is a 30%–50% probability of graft-versus-host disease, even if the donor is related. In the case of unrelated donors, this probability increases to 60%–70%. GvHD, unfortunately, has a mortality rate of approximately 50%. 

Types of Cord Blood Matches: 

  • The Baby: The own cord blood of a baby always provides a 100% match for him or her. The risk of graft-versus-host disease is minimal, making autologous transplant or infusion the most preferred treatment alternative for many conditions.
  • Siblings: There is a 75% chance of being a partial or perfect match for siblings from the same parents. This is because children receive one group of HLA markers from each of the parents. 
  • Parents: As one HLA group is provided to the baby by each parent, the cord blood of the child always provides a 50% match for them. Though parents generally don’t have more than a 50% match, they can use the baby’s cord blood to undergo a haploidentical transplant. 
  • Half-siblings: Half-siblings have the HLA markers only from one of the parents. Moreover, even then, that one parent may not have contributed the same markers. A haploidentical transplant would be possible for half-siblings with a 50% match. 
  • Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts, and Cousins: The child’s cord blood continues to become less compatible as we move away from the immediate family. Blood-related grandparents and uncles and aunts may have some compatibility. However, that may not be sufficient for transplantations. 

To find out more about what is cord blood banking compatibility, please visit Americord. 

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