To reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with unrelated donor bone marrow (BM) transplantation and potentially extend the pool of suitable donors, cryopreserved unrelated donor umbilical cord blood was considered as an alternate source of hematopoietic stem cells for transplantation. Patients with leukemia, BM failure syndrome, or inborn error of metabolism were eligible for a phase I clinical trial designed to estimate the risk of graft failure and severe acute graft-versus-host disease after transplantation of umbilical cord blood from unrelated donors. As of December 21, 1995, unrelated donor umbilical cord blood was used to reconstitute hematopoiesis in eighteen patients aged 0.1 to 21.3 years weighing 3.3 to 78.8 kg with acquired or congenital lympho-hematopoietic disorders or metabolic disease. Patients received either HLA-matched (n = 7) or HLA-1 to 3 antigen disparate (n = 11) grafts collected and evaluated by the New York Blood Center (New York, NY). The probability of engraftment after unrelated donor umbilical cord blood transplantation was 100% with no patient having late graft failure to date. The probability of grade III-IV acute graft-versus-host disease at 100 days was 11%. With a median follow-up of 6 months (range, 1.6 to 17 months); the probability of survival at 6 months is 65% in this high risk patient population. We conclude that cryopreserved umbilical cord blood from HLA-matched and mismatched unrelated donors is a sufficient source of transplantable hematopoietic stem cells with high probability of donor derived engraftment and low risk of refractory severe acute graft-versus-host disease. Limitations with regard to recipient size and degree of donor HLA disparity remain to be determined.