What is cord blood?
Cord blood is the blood that is left behind in the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born.
Why is cord blood used?
Cord blood is rich in blood stem cells, which are the building blocks of all blood cells in our body. Similar stem cells are also produced in the bone marrow. Among other functions, stem cells produce blood cells that carry oxygen, fight infection and stop bleeding.
The most common diseases currently treated using cord blood are related to blood disorders and some cancers such as:
- Immune deficiency
- Blood diseases such as Aplastic and Fanconi Anaemia
- Metabolic storage diseases
How likely is it that cord blood will be used for transplantation?
Of the approximately 35,000 cord blood units stored in public cord blood banks in Australia, about 10 are released for transplant to Australian patients each year, with around 20 to overseas patients. Since its peak in the early days of transplantation, the use of cord blood in Australia and around the world has declined, as other sources of blood stem cells have become more available.
Who operates public cord blood banks in Australia?
The are three public cord blood banks in Australia: Sydney Cord Blood Bank , BMDI Cord Blood Bank and Queensland Cord Blood Bank at the Mater. They work together through a collaboration known as AusCord.
AusCord aims to provide high quality cord blood to patients who need a life-saving transplant. ABMDR matches this cord blood to a patient in need of a transplant. ABMDR also manages, on behalf of Australian governments, government investment in AusCord – primarily to store and release suitable cord blood to transplant patients who have found a match. As well as government funding, AusCord banks can receive income from individuals, community groups and charitable organisations.
AusCord complies with the WMDA international standards for unrelated haematopoietic stem cell donor registries. AusCord cord blood banks are licensed by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to collect, process and store cord blood units. The banks are also accredited under the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), an international organisation that promotes the highest quality standards and laboratory practices for cord blood banks. Maintenance of the TGA licence and FACT accreditation requires consistently good performance at regular audits.
Privacy and confidentiality
Public cord blood banks handle donor information in accordance with the relevant privacy laws. Information on cord blood donation and transplant is strictly confidential.
No identifying information is exchanged between a cord blood donor and patient.
Information, blood and/or DNA will be stored and may be used in ethically approved research or quality assurance projects if the mother has given consent. AusCord cord blood banks do not participate in any cloning research projects.