The global cord blood industry came into existence in the early 1990’s with the formation of several leading cord blood banks in the USA, followed by the establishment of cord blood banks across the globe.
However, the history of cord blood stem cell transplantation begins much earlier than that.
A Brief History of the Cord Blood Banking Industry
In 1974, it was first proposed that stem and progenitor cells were present in human cord blood. By 1983, the concept of using umbilical cord blood as an alternative source of stem cells for transplant had been proposed. By 1988, the first successful cord blood transplant to regenerate blood and immune system cells occurred in Paris, France, performed by Dr. Eliane Gluckman. It was used in the treatment of a six-year-old boy suffering from the blood disorder “Fanconi’s Anemia.”
By 1989, Dr. Broxmeyer and colleagues had released an important article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that identified that cord blood has similar attributes to bone marrow and is a plentiful source of stem and progenitor cells for use in transplant. The paper proposed that cord blood could act as a possible alternative source to bone marrow for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
By 1989, Cryo-Cell International was founded in Oldsmar, Florida (USA). However, the company did not start storing cord blood until 1992. By 1992, the New York Blood Center had opened the first public bank for umbilical cord blood storage using funding provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). In the same year (1992), the University of Arizona in Tucson also stored the first cord blood sample in the world for private (family) use.
In 1993, ViaCord was founded as a private cord blood bank. In the same year (1993), the very first cord blood transplant between a donor and recipient not related to one another occurred, first performed at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina (USA).
By 1995, the Cord Blood Registry (CBR) was founded, and the company has since grown into the single largest private cord blood bank worldwide, as determined by number of cord blood and tissue units banked (500,000+). While Cord Blood Registry® was acquired in June 2015 by the pharmaceutical giant AMAG Pharmaceuticals for $700 million, the company continues to operate under its brand name, Cord Blood Registry®.
What Will the Next 40 Years of Cord Blood Banking See?
It has now been almost 40 years since it was first proposed that stem and progenitor cells were present in human cord blood, so the question is, what will the next 40 years hold for the cord blood banking industry?
Within the past year alone, Natera launched cord blood and tissue storage services in the USA, the largest cord blood banks in Canada (Insception Lifebank) and Australia (CellCare) merged, and Sanpower Group became the largest cord blood banking operator in China and SE Asia after buying China Cord Blood Corporation (CCBC) and Shandong Cord Blood Bank. Cord blood banks are also adding many new types of perinatal tissue stem cell storage, including but not limited to umbilical cord tissue, chorion, amniotic tissues, placenta, and more.
Ideally, we will also continue to see progress with cord blood expansion technologies, improved processing technologies, and an increasing range of therapeutic applications for cord blood, among other advances.