Stem Cell Banking and importance of HLA

Cord blood, which contains powerful stem cells, comes from a newborn’s umbilical cord and is collected immediately after birth. Once the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut, the remaining blood in the umbilical cord is drawn into a collection bag, which is then processed and preserved at -196 degree Celsius.

What makes cord blood cells different?

Cord blood stem cells are biologically younger and are more adaptable compared to adult stem cells from other sources like bone marrow. When saved, they have unique qualities and advantages:

Comparison of Stem Cell Sources Newborn Adult Embryonic
Ability to differentiate into various cell types
High proliferation capacity
Low risk of tumor formation
Low risk of viral contamination
Capacity for autologous transplantation
Established / proven treatment in human patients


Stem cells can heal the body, promote recovery, and offer an enormous amount of therapeutic potential. Preserving cord blood stem cells “stops the clock” and protects the stem cells from aging and being exposed to environmental factors and common viruses that can decrease their function.




The effectiveness of cord blood stem cell therapy depends on many factors, with one of the most important being stem cell matching. Doctors determine stem cell matching based on human leukocyte antigen (HLA) markers. Passed down from parents to their children, these markers act like cell fingerprints, letting the immune system know which cells belong in the body and which cells are foreign to it. If a patient’s HLA markers exactly match those of the new stem cells being introduced, the patient’s body will readily accept the cells. If the HLA match is close but not perfect, chances are still favorable that the patient’s body will accept the cells. By storing cord blood from each child, parents can increase the chance of finding the best source for a match.

HLA means Human Leukocyte Antigens, which are found on the surface of various types of nucleated cells in the human body. In the human anatomy, they are akin to an “identity card”, inherited from one’s parents and could distinguish “self” and “nonself”, through which the wholeness of an individual can be maintained. Briefly, there are 6 HLA types: A, B, DQ and DR. Out of which A, B and DR play a critical role during cord blood transplants.A cord blood transplant is just as effective at curing patients with only a 4 out of 6 match (67% match) between donor and patient whereas for bone marrow transplant the patient and donor must match at all 6 parameters (100% match).       The best potential for an HLA match is within the family. Each person inherits one A, B, DR antigen from each parent. Thus, we have 2 HLA-A antigens, 2 HLA-B antigens and 2 DR antigen which make up total 6 anitgens. In case of a Cord Blood Transplant 4/6 is a suitable match.



When an unrelated donor is sought the number of potential HLA combinations becomes so enormous that finding the patient’s exact HLA type may seem like searching for a needle in a haystack. HLA helps to understand the acceptance and recovery after transplantation on two factors

  • Engraftment – Engraftment occurs when the donated cells that were transplanted begin to grow and make new cells.
  • Graft-Versus-Host Disease (GVHD)-A post-transplant complication, GVHD occurs when the immune cells from the cord blood (the graft) attack the patient’s own immune cells.

Considering the benefits of cord blood stem cells, need of stem cell banking and importance of HLA at the time of preservation, it is recommended for to-be parents to wisely choose a stem cell bank that provides HLA Typing service at the time of preservation. Saving your child’s cord blood is an investment towards your family’s future health; thus, its benefits cannot be measured in financial terms.  However, if one must make economic justifications, the cost of storing cord blood and tissue pales in comparison to the many expenses associated with raising a child today, such as the cost of child care and education. The potential return on investment in stem cell banking is paramount as it can save the lives of your loved ones.

Umbilical cord blood banking in India is emerging at very high pace and parents are realizing the potential of cord blood in curing previously incurable diseases. To know more about stem cells and umbilical cord blood banking in India visit –

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