Whom to entrust the future: we are choosing a cord blood bank

Many future parents have heard about the possibility to preserve the umbilical cord blood at childbirth. Those families, who decide to insure their baby’s health in this way face a choice: how to choose a cord blood bank. Today it is difficult to imagine for what exactly the stored cells may be necessary later. Therefore, it is important to choose a cryobank that offers maximum services and relies on a serious scientific base, and not just stores frozen samples. From this article you will get to know how to choose a cord blood bank.

Cryobank: not only the storage of biological material

In simple terms, the cryobank is a place, where vials with a fraction of blood, containing stem cells are being stored in a frozen state in containers with liquid nitrogen as well as other biological material. Since this is the cord blood, serving often as the source of stem cells, such cryostorage facilities are usually called the “cord blood banks”, although they also preserve stem cells obtained from umbilical cord and the placenta, as well as ovarian tissue, placental tissue, placenta extract and other human tissues and cells.

To choose a cord blood bank for storing your child’s stem cells, you need to pay attention not only to storage conditions, but also to other important factors. We have compiled a checklist for you that will help you make a choice. You can download it in pdf format.

So, what to pay attention to when choosing a cryobank.

  1. The presence of a license of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine for the activities of a bank of cord blood, other human tissues and cells. Only the bank, whose work complies with the licensing rules, which you can get to know here, can obtain such a license. Licensing conditions relate to the organization of work, applied technologies, equipment, as well as the qualifications of specialists working in a cord blood bank. The first such license was obtained by the Cryobank of the Institute of Cell Therapy. Not all stem cell banks operating in Ukraine were able to confirm their compliance with these requirements until the License conditions entered into force. One of the famous Ukrainian cryobanks was deprived of a license due to violation of the conditions. When choosing a bank for the storage of umbilical cord blood, it is imperative to consider the availability of a license. Information about this should be on the bank’s website and also provided upon request by the administrators, providing services to cryobank customers.
  2. The presence of international accreditation and certification. This is important in case there will be a necessity to use the stem cell preparation not in Ukraine – for example, because of moving to a permanent place of residence in another country or, if necessary, to undergo a treatment abroad. If the cryobank has international certificates, the biological material stored in it can be transferred to a foreign bank for storage or used for therapy in a foreign clinic. The availability of certification in accordance with international quality standards is an additional guarantee that cryobanks and clinics of other countries agree to store or use biological material processed and frozen in Ukraine. In particular, only the Cryobank of the Institute of Cell Therapy complies with the ISO 9001:2015 standard in Ukraine, which is also a member of the International Placenta Stem Cell Society (IPLASS) and the International Society for Cell Therapy (ISCT). In addition, Institute of Cell Therapy specialists are members of IFPA, the International Federation of Placenta Associations, and ISSCR, the International Stem Cell Research Society. The  Cryobank of the Institute of Cell Therapy is also the founder and full member of the Association of Cryobanks of Cord Blood, Other Human Tissues and Cells.
  3. Logistics system. The thermal container with biological material obtained during labor (cord blood, placenta, umbilical cord) must be delivered to the cord blood bank not later than 24 hours after the childbirth. This task is handled either by the bank’s own courier service, which has a specific experience in transporting the biological material (as in the case of the Cryobank of the Institute of Cell Therapy, which provides logistics on its own), or a courier service that has a license for delivering biological material, with which several banks can cooperate.
  4. The availability of the own laboratory and laboratory control system. The best option is if the laboratory is located directly at the cryobank, in the same city, where cells and tissues will be preserved. The task of the laboratory is to process properly the obtained biological material, to isolate stem cells, to prepare them for the freezing procedure, adding a cryoprotectant to protect the cells, and to freeze them before storage. This is a technologically complex process, for the implementation of which not only the availability of modern equipment and specialized software is important, but also the qualification of the staff. If we talk about the employees of the laboratory complex of the Institute of Cell Therapy Cryobank, they not only have the appropriate education and many years of experience, but also underwent training in Western laboratories. Each stage of the process for which the laboratory is responsible is very important, since only compliance with all conditions allows Cryobank to ensure high quality processing of the collected biological material, cell preparations and processed tissues, their safety and purity, as well as the possibility of clinical use.
  5. Own PCR laboratory. This is a DNA diagnostic laboratory, without which it is difficult to achieve a high degree of purity and infectious safety of biological preparations. Its function is to check the selected samples of biological material for viruses and possible bacterial contamination. Today, only the Cryobank of the Institute of Cell Therapy has its own PCR laboratory in Ukraine.
  6. The technology for storing biological material used by a cord blood bank. If you look at the issue superficially, then it seems that all cryostorages keep the “biodeposits” of their customers in the same way: in Dewar vessels – vacuum containers that maintain the temperature created inside. Temperature -196˚С is maintained in tanks thanks to liquid nitrogen. However, all the preparatory stages are of great importance. For example, the Cryobank of the Institute of Cell Therapy uses its own unique technique that meets international standards and the requirements of international accreditation committees regarding the collection, processing, testing and cryopreservation of cord blood. The methodology used by Cryobank is based on the scientific developments of a group of scientists led by Galina Lobintseva, PhD, who heads this scientific institution. The results of her research, her inventions, and, in fact, the very technique of cryopreservation of stem cells, taking into account the most progressive world experience in the storage of biological material, were awarded with the State Prize of Ukraine and helped bring the cryo-freezing process to a new level: up to 96% of the cells stored using this technique retain viability and quality after thawing and are fully suitable for therapeutic use. When choosing a bank, ask what percentage of viable cells can be obtained after thawing. Different laboratories provide different quality of biological products. For example, the Cryobank laboratory is preparing a placenta extract that can be used for intravenous use – unlike most other cord blood banks that offer patients only a topical drug.
  7. Experience of stored stem cells application. Cord blood bank investors can use stored stem cells at their discretion, both for the treatment of serious diseases, and as part of anti-aging therapy or in cosmetic programs. Before signing a contract with a cryobank, it is important to know whether the stem cells biological products, stored in the bank,  were used for treatment. The biobanks do not hide this experience, since each application of a biological product is a big plus not only for the bank’s reputation, but also a matter of pride for employees and confirmation of the quality of cryobank labs team work. For example, in 2008, the Cord Blood Bank of the Institute of Cell Therapy received permission from the Ministry of Health of Ukraine to participate in clinical trials using stem cells. This means that during 11 years the Cryobank has been providing cellular and tissue preparations to clinics and medical centers participating in the study of the most advanced methods of serious diseases treatment.
  8. The ability to use the drug on its own medical base. To offer patients not only services for stem cells storage, but also for their use, since it is not enough just to be a repository of biological material. The cord blood bank should ideally be a part of a large research and clinical structure, within which various types of medical care are offered. It is important that you don’t have to go abroad for stem cell treatment, although it is possible to transport the drug for treatment in another country, in any case, the cord blood bank of the Institute of Cell Therapy provides this opportunity. The presence of ISO certification, membership in international organizations is an additional assurance that the biological material processed and prepared at the Cryobank of the Institute of Cell Therapy will be used by foreign clinics.

The cord blood banks of which types exist?

Cord blood stem cells and placenta are being stored in most countries of the world. Many states support the  activities of two types of cord blood banks: public and family ones. Among them are the USA, Germany, Great Britain, Poland and many others. In some countries, only public banks operate, in some (as in Ukraine) only family stem cell banks offer their services.

Public banks are involved in the storage of umbilical cord blood collected as a charitable contribution: in fact, parents give umbilical cord blood at birth for the benefit of the society. Information about the samples is entered into the International Register of Hematopoietic Stem Cells, which is used for donor stem cells search. The work of public cord blood banks is supported by state funding, as well as through funds from various foundations and organizations. The contribution that parents make by donating cord blood to such a bank is also a kind of a charity. After all, the stem cells of their child can be used in the treatment of any person, to whom they are suitable and who will need a transplant. The advantage of public banks is that they constantly replenish the register with donor material with different immune characteristics. First of all, the existence of such a system is beneficial for those who are faced with the need to search for a donor. But there is one feature: if a child whose blood was donated to a public cord blood bank needs a  stem cells transplant, it is likely that it will already be used to treat someone who needed the cells before. In this case, the transplant for the child will be searched in the same public bank, where his biological material was stored.

Family cord blood banks store biological material under an agreement with the baby’s parents, whose cord blood (as well as the umbilical cord and placenta) was collected at birth. The isolated and stored stem cells are the personal deposit of the family, and only the contracting family uses them. Parents or the child after achieving adulthood can authorize the donor use of biological material, but in any case the stem cells will be stored in the cryobank for as long as the contract provides and payment for storage is received. In countries, where there are public cord blood banks, family banks are also popular. Indeed, many people want to preserve autologous cells (that is, their own), since their use for the purpose of treatment is not associated with the risk of immune mismatch.

On the site https://parentsguidecordblood.org/ you can find out which cord blood banks – public, family or hybrid ones, offer their services in different countries of the world. The resource provides an opportunity to get acquainted with the level of accreditation of a stem cell bank, the location of the laboratory, prices. Unfortunately, the resource provides inaccurate data on the number of transplants; the prices also require clarification directly on the website of the cord blood bank. You can accurately calculate the cost of collection and storage of the umbilical cord blood, placenta and umbilical cord in the Cryobank, using a convenient calculator.