What is umbilical cord blood?

Long considered biological waste, the blood in the umbilical cord is now recognized as a valuable source of stem cells.

Stem cells from umbilical cord blood can be used to improve the treatments offered to people whose own bone marrow and stem cells responsible for producing blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets) do not function properly or to those who are suffering from certain malignant blood diseases such as leukemia, anemia and bone marrow aplasia (lack of bone marrow function).

Umbilical cord blood is an advantageous therapeutic option for individuals weighing less than 50 kg who need a bone marrow transplant.

Public Cord Blood Bank

Héma-Québec manages the only Public cord blood bank in Québec. It is the second public bank of this type in Canada; there are approximately 40 public cord blood banks worldwide.

Our Public Cord Blood Bank aims to make stem cells from cord blood a public resource and provide an optimal-quality supply that meets the needs of patients waiting for a stem cell transplant.

The Public Cord Blood Bank provides access to a complementary source of stem cells, other than those available in bone marrow and peripheral blood, and it is part of the Stem Cell Donor Registry that we are managing.

Cord blood is collected at Héma-Québec’s partner hospitals with the consent of the mothers who have registered with the Public cord blood bank. The cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord once it has been cut, after the birth of the child. This type of collection, which is less invasive than bone marrow collection, poses no danger to either the mother or child. If this cord blood is not collected, it is discarded as biomedical waste, as is the placenta.

The umbilical cord blood collected is treated and tested in our laboratories where we check its safety and quality. If the cord blood sample meets all of the standards, we will freeze it until it is needed by a stem cell transplant candidate. Cord blood has a lifespan of at least 10 years when frozen.

The umbilical cord blood donations that do not qualify for the Bank will be stored at the CHU mère-enfant Sainte-Justine, at the Royal Victoria Hospital Clinical Research Cord Blood Bank and at the CHUQ mère-enfant Reshearch Centre for research purposes if the mothers involved give their consent.