The CBA provides answers to important questions about biobanking in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

Cord Blood Association (CBA) is the most authoritative international organization that promotes the development of biobanking of perinatal tissues (umbilical cord blood, umbilical cord, placenta) for their clinical use in the treatment of diseases. The Institute of Cell Therapy is a full member of the Cord Blood Association, and in 2021 received a gratitude letter from the President of the organization – Professor Joan Kurtsberg for participating in CBA projects.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, both healthcare professionals and customers of biobanks often turn to relevant professional organizations with numerous questions regarding the storage of biological material under epidemic conditions, as well as the possibility of using isolated stem cells in the treatment of coronavirus pneumonia. The Cord Blood Association has officially prepared answers to the most common questions.

Is the biomaterial stored in the cryobank before the COVID-19 pandemic protected from contamination?

Yes, the packaging in which the biomaterial is stored is tested for integrity in accordance with FDA requirements, and double additional external protection is also provided.

Is it possible to safely collect umbilical cord blood and perinatal tissues (umbilical cord, placenta) during childbirth in a COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, appropriate testing of the mother-to-be for infectious diseases was performed and possible contraindications to biomaterial collection were identified.

Do cryobanks provide biomaterial storage services during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Cryobanks are an integral part of the health care system, and these medical facilities continue to operate in the new epidemic.

Has the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued any official documents governing the activities of umbilical cord blood biobanks during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, in January 2021, the FDA issued “Updated Information on Human Cells / Tissues and Human Cell / Tissue Preparations during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The FDA has also issued a new guide, “Conditions for the Production of Licensed and Tested Drugs for Cell and Gene Therapy during the COVID-19 Pandemic, as a Health Emergency.

Can COVID-19 be passed from a woman to fetus during pregnancy?

Studies on the presence of SARS-CoV virus in 163 samples of amniotic fluid, placenta and / or umbilical cord blood revealed coronavirus in 10 cases (6 of 67 placentas, 1 of 54 samples of amniotic fluid and 1 of 42 samples of umbilical cord blood). A positive COVID-19 test was found in 61 neonates and coronavirus was detected in 4 of 92 breast milk samples tested (Rodriquest C, Baia I, Dominques R and Barrow H. Frontiers in Public Health, Volume 8: 1-13, 2020).

Can COVID-19 be transmitted by umbilical cord blood stem cell transplantation?

There are no data on the transmission of coronavirus through the graft. Also, no respiratory virus has ever been reported to be transmitted to a patient during implantation, transplantation, infusion, or other cell or tissue transfer.

Can umbilical cord blood be considered an alternative to bone marrow transplants?

Yes, preserved unrelated umbilical cord blood is used in the treatment of many patients who do not have living compatible bone marrow donors. This situation can easily happen during a COVID-19 pandemic. Unavailability of the bone marrow donor during pandemic may occur due to a COVID-19 disease of a potential donor or the lack of a donation center due to the re-profiling of the medical institutions to help patients with COVID-19.

Because umbilical cord blood transplants are safe and readily available, major donor registries recommend that umbilical cord blood use be considered for all patients seeking a compatible bone marrow donor.

Can umbilical cord blood be used in the treatment of COVID-19?

Umbilical cord blood, umbilical cord and placenta stem cells are already being studied in the treatment of COVID-19. Preliminary results from clinical trials demonstrate that mesenchymal stromal cells may help patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is often a fatal complication of COVID-19. Clinical trials in this field are currently ongoing in Asia, Europe and the United States.

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In Ukraine, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute of Cell Therapy has adapted all Cryobank operating processes in accordance with international requirements, this includes proper external disinfection of biomaterial containers coming from maternity hospitals in Ukraine, appropriate sanitation and compliance of the enterprise with special anti-epidemic regime, shift work of staff.

Preparations of multipotent mesenchymal stem cells of the placenta and umbilical cord manufactured by Cryobank are used in the treatment of coronavirus COVID-19 pneumonia in a joint clinical trial of the Institute of Cell Therapy, Kyiv City Clinical Hospital № 4 and the Gromashevsky Institute of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases. In Ukraine, 13 patients with COVID-19 have already received cell therapy. A computed tomography scan performed 24 weeks later showed that 12 of them avoided pulmonary fibrosis courtesy of the new treatment.