The history of cord blood banking is fascinating, because the service did not exist on a wide-spread basis until a few decades ago. Below, we introduce key historical events that have affected cord blood and cord tissue storage and how they could impact you, your family, or your investment portfolio.
The Early Years of Cord Blood Transplantation
During the birthing process, the umbilical cord is cut, at which time some blood remains in the blood vessels of the placenta and the portion of the umbilical cord that remains attached to it. After birth, the baby no longer needs this extra blood. This blood is called placental blood or umbilical cord blood, often known as “cord blood” for short.
1974 was the first year in which a bone marrow transplant was performed, as well as the first time that a report proposed that umbilical cord blood stem cells were present in human cord blood.
In the forthcoming years it was established that cord blood stem cells had similar properties to bone marrow and could be used as an alternative. The first successful cord blood transplant between a related donor and recipient was performed in Paris, France, in 1988 on a six year old boy from Duke who had the blood disorder Fanconi’s Anemia.
The first successful cord blood transplant between an unrelated donor and recipient took place in the year 1993 at Duke University’s Pediatric Blood and Marrow Program, performed by Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg. Since these landmark events, more than 30,000 cord blood transplants have now been performed worldwide.
Cord Blood as a Novel Source of Stem Cells
Cord blood has since become known as rich in stem cells, which can be used in the treatment of various diseases relating to blood and lymph. Human cord blood contains several types of stem cells, including hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), and to a lesser degree, cord blood-derived stem cells (CB-SC), mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), endothelial stem cells (ESC), and monocyte-derived stem cells.
Due to the potential use of these stem cells in the treatment of human disease, a market for the collection and preservation of cord blood and cord tissue emerged. To serve individual families, private companies began collecting cord blood during childbirth and store it for future medical use.
Cord blood storage by private cord blood banks began in the 1990s, introducing new options for treating diseases of the blood and immune system.
The first public cord blood bank was established by Dr. Pablo Rubinstein in the year 1992 at the New York Blood Center through funding provided by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The earliest private cord blood banks were Cryo–Cell International (Oldsmar, FL), which was founded in 1989, and Cord Blood Registry (San Bruno, California), which was founded in 1992. ViaCord (Cambridge, MA) was founded shortly thereafter in 1993.
Cord blood banking market has impacted the global healthcare industry by providing a reliable method of disease treatment with several technical advantages over bone marrow transplant and peripheral blood stem cell transplant. In addition, some governments have begun to extend support for cord blood storage through funding of public banking programs, funding of laboratory and clinical research, and offering tax advantages for those who elect to privately store cord blood.
The tissue of the umbilical cord, known as “cord tissue,” also has potential medical benefits. The sub-compartment within it that is rich in stem cells is called Wharton’s Jelly. It can only be collected right after a baby is born. It is rich in mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), which have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic (anti-scarring) properties, among other benefits.
As the cord blood industry continues to evolve and expand, having a clear understanding of the past will position you to be better informed about market conditions moving forward.
 Knudtzon S. (1974). In vitro growth of granulocyte colonies from circulating cells in human cord blood. Blood. pp. 43:357-361.
 Ccbb.duke.edu, (2014). History of Cord Blood | Carolinas Cord Blood Bank (CCBB). [online] Available at: http://ccbb.duke.edu/about-cord-blood/history-cord-blood [Accessed 31 Oct. 2014].
 Ballen, K., Gluckman, E. and Broxmeyer, H. (2013). Umbilical cord blood transplantation: the first 25 years and beyond. Blood, [online] 122(4), pp.491-498. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/blood-2013-02-453175 [Accessed 2 Nov. 2014].
 Congress.gov, (2014). H.R.3673 – 113th Congress (2013-2014): Family Cord Blood Banking Act | Congress.gov | Library of Congress. [online] Available at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/3673 [Accessed 31 Oct. 2014].