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The fulfilled promise and unmet potential of umbilical cord blood.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Here, we review classic and emerging uses of umbilical cord blood and highlight strategies to improve its utility, focusing on selection of the appropriate units and cell types for the intended applications.

RECENT LITERATURE: Recent studies have shown advancements in cord blood cell utility in a variety of cellular therapies and have made strides in elucidating manners to select the best units for therapy and target new ways to improve the various cell subpopulations for their respective applications.

SUMMARY: Umbilical cord blood is a proven source of cells for hematopoietic cell transplantation and research and is an important potential source for additional cellular therapies. However, cord blood utility is limited by low "doses" of potent cells that can be obtained from individual units, a limitation that is specific to cord blood as a donor source. In addition to traditional CD34+ progenitor cells, cord blood lymphocytes are being pursued as therapeutic entities with their own unique properties and characteristics. Thus, selection of ideal units depends on the intended therapeutic entity and target, and identification of differential potency parameters is critical to drive effective banking strategies accommodating successful clinical use of cord blood in broader cell therapy settings.

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