Placental and Cord-Blood Transplants: Pros and Cons
For many patients waiting to be matched to a suitable donor, or for those unable to find one, umbilical cord blood is now a readily available, easy-to-store alternative. Even with a 1- or 2-antigen mismatch, cord-blood transplants succeed in a greater percent of cases than occurs with equally mismatched bone marrow transplants. This discovery greatly increases the transplant options for minorities who are under-represented in the donor pool. And cord blood is unlikely to harbor a virus called the cytomegalovirus that can cause life-threatening infections and contaminates about 10 percent of marrow donations.
On the other hand, there is a slight risk that maternal cells or genetic disease in the child could contaminate the cord-blood donation. And cord transplants contain only about 1/10 of the number of cells that can be harvested from a bone marrow transplant. Another concern is that cord-blood transplants require more time to "take" in the recipient's bone marrow, leaving the patient vulnerable to infection longer.