Umbilical cord blood: an undervalued and underutilized resource in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant and novel cell therapy applications

Patricia A. Shi, Larry L. Luchsinger, John M. Greally, Colleen S. Delaney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose of reviewThe purpose of this review is to primarily discuss the unwarranted decline in the use of umbilical cord blood (UCB) as a source of donor hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) for hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) and the resulting important implications in addressing healthcare inequities, and secondly to highlight the incredible potential of UCB and related birthing tissues for the development of a broad range of therapies to treat human disease including but not limited to oncology, neurologic, cardiac, orthopedic and immunologic conditions.Recent findingsWhen current best practices are followed, unrelated donor umbilical cord blood transplant (CBT) can provide superior quality of life-related survival compared to other allogeneic HSC donor sources (sibling, matched or mismatched unrelated, and haploidentical) through decreased risks of relapse and chronic graft vs. host disease. Current best practices include improved UCB donor selection criteria with consideration of higher resolution human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing and CD34+ cell dose, availability of newer myeloablative but reduced toxicity conditioning regimens, and rigorous supportive care in the early posttransplant period with monitoring for known complications, especially related to viral and other infections that may require intervention. Emerging best practice may include the use of ex vivo expanded single-unit CBT rather than double-unit CBT (dCBT) or 'haplo-cord' transplant, and the incorporation of posttransplant cyclophosphamide as with haploidentical transplant and/or incorporation of novel posttransplant therapies to reduce the risk of relapse, such as NK cell adoptive transfer. Novel, non-HCT uses of UCB and birthing tissue include the production of UCB-derived immune effector cell therapies such as unmodified NK cells, chimeric antigen receptor-natural killer cells and immune T-cell populations, the isolation of mesenchymal stem cells for immune modulatory treatments and derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells haplobanks for regenerative medicine development and population studies to facilitate exploration of drug development through functional genomics.SummaryThe potential of allogeneic UCB for HCT and novel cell-based therapies is undervalued and underutilized. The inventory of high-quality UCB units available from public cord blood banks (CBB) should be expanding rather than contracting in order to address ongoing healthcare inequities and to maintain a valuable source of cellular starting material for cell and gene therapies and regenerative medicine approaches. The expertise in Good Manufacturing Practice-grade manufacturing provided by CBB should be supported to effectively partner with groups developing UCB for novel cell-based therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-326
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Opinion in Hematology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • allogeneic
  • cord blood expansion
  • functional genomics
  • gene therapy
  • haplo-cord
  • haplobank
  • haplobank
  • human leukocyte antigen
  • immune effector cells
  • immunotherapy
  • induced pluripotent stem cells
  • transplant
  • umbilical cord blood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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