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What is the Difference Between iPSC and Cord Blood Stem Cells?


There are significant differences between iPSC and cord blood stem cells. First, cord blood stem cells can only repopulate the bone marrow and produce hematopoietic cells or blood cells (white cells, red cells and platelets).  In contrast, iPSC can become every cell of the body.  Thus, cord blood is most beneficial for hematological disorders like leukemia or non-malignant bone marrow disorders.  Second, cord blood stem cells have limited number of stem cells and are not of sufficient number to treat an adult as an autologous cell therapy.  Typically, cord blood has enough stem cells for a donor under 90 lbs.  In contrast, iPSC can produce billions of stem cells that is sufficient to treat an adult.  According to the Academy of Pediatrics, there is a 1 out of 200,000 chance that a child will acquire a hematological problem during childhood and require their own cord blood (1).  


Using one's own cord blood cells might not be wise or effective, especially in cases of childhood cancers and leukemia. Children who develop an immunological disorder or cancer often are unable to use their own cord blood for stem cell transplantation because the blood also contains the same genetic defect.  Thus, pediatric bone marrow transplant centers will avoid using privately banked cord blood for autologous use.


Most cord blood samples—up to 75%—may be too small to be used for transplantation because they don't contain enough stem cells. While a private bank will store a sample, the sample may be too small to be usable, even for a child (2).  Larger numbers of blood cells are required for adults. While cryopreservation will keep the sample viable for many years, it is unlikely that there will be enough cells in their collection to treat any condition that they might be diagnosed when the donor achieves adulthood (3).


In contrast, the probability for a chronic disease becomes much higher when an individual exceeds the age of 50.  Thus, it is likely that an adult will require diagnostic testing, regenerative medicine or enroll in a clinical trial when chronic disease becomes prevalent.  Thus, an IPSC is more suitable than the direct use of cord blood to address health-related problems in adults.




(1) "Umbilical cord blood banking: Pros & cons, costs, banking basics". Retrieved 2015-03-09.


(2)  "The Cord Blood Banking Controversy". Retrieved 2015-03-09.


(3) "WMDA Policy Statement on the Utility of Autologous or Family Cord Blood Unit Storage" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-03-09.


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