May 16, 2014

How does your racial or ethnic background figure in to your decision to store your baby’s cord blood? The primary reason is that, a mixed-race family may have difficulty finding a compatible match should they ever need a stem cell transplant.

To clarify, the three sources of blood-forming cells used for transplants are stem cells found in cord blood, bone marrow, and peripheral blood stem cells, or PBSC. Cord blood does not need to be as closely matched as bone marrow or PBSC, with makes it a better and easier match.

To clarify, the three sources of blood-forming cells used for transplants are stem cells found in cord blood, bone marrow, and peripheral blood stem cells, or PBSC. Cord blood does not need to be as closely matched as bone marrow or PBSC, with makes it a better and easier match.

Human Leukocyte Antigens, or HLA, are proteins in the immune system that determine whether a patient will react against a donor transplant. There are basically six HLA types. For a patient and donor to be a compatible match for a transplant though the use of cord blood, they need to share only four of the six types. Among different ethnic groups, there are significant differences in the occurrence of certain HLA types. This means patients are more likely to find a good match among donors from their own ethnic group.

African Americans in particular have a difficult time locating a match. They are a minority and, therefore, have fewer donors are available. Also, the variation in HLA-types among those with African ancestry is much higher than that of any other group, making those of mixed African and other backgrounds an even harder match due to their very unique HLA types.

Sickle cell anemia, which predominately affects African Americans more than any other race, has been treated and cured, in many cases, through the use of stem cell transplants.

Donating your baby’s cord blood, takes out much of the risk of not finding a matching donor, should your child or other family member develop a need for a transplant in the future.

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