An umbilical cord blood transplant saved leukemia patient Chris Lihosit’s life, but the procedure has only been performed around 40,000 times worldwide.
Doctors can use cord blood in lieu of bone marrow in some cases. This is a boon for patients whose bone marrow is harder to match because cord blood cells do not differentiate themselves as much as adult bone marrow cells do. Cord blood is also collected noninvasively and can be stored for long periods. But umbilical cords provide far fewer blood-forming cells than an adult bone marrow donation, and in the US, cord blood from only 5% of births is saved.