The first cord blood stem cell transplant was performed in 1988. Since then, more than 15,000 cord blood stem cell transplants have occurred as of the end of 2009. The opportunity for expectant families to collect and store their newborn’s umbilical cord blood stem cells has only been widely available since late 1995.
In 2009, scientists discovered an abundance of viable stem cells in the cord blood that is found in the placenta that can be extracted for stem cell transplantation. Cord blood in the placenta contains vastly more stem cells than the cord blood in the umbilical cord does. This is a major breakthrough because the amount of stem cells available from umbilical cord blood alone is generally only enough to successfully treat patients who weigh less than approximately 65 pounds if doctors follow best practices. The larger amount of stem cells available from the placenta’s cord blood has led doctors to believe they will be able to cure even more people of sickle cell anemia, leukemia, and other disorders.