Stem Cell Storing - Where? How? and Why?
One beautiful day of Summer 2018 me and my partner were happily surprised with the news of a new member joining our family - We are Expecting!
As it is our first child we felt quite lost, whats next? What pram to get? Where do we give birth? Cutting the cord? Stem cells? Cord clamping?! All these terms we have never come across before!
We went to The Baby Show in London where we met Smart Cells. They store your babies cord blood and cord tissue and are able to extract the stem cells and store them in the event that they are ever needed for a treatment in the future. We never heard of this before, but it totally made sense and here is why:
What are the Stem Cells?
Stem Cells are biological cells found in the body, they serve as a repair and maintenance system for other body cells and the blood and immune system by multiplying and transforming in to blood, bone, tissue and organ cells, when they are required to.
How can they be used if stored?
A cord blood stem cell transplant can be used to replace diseased cells with healthy new cells, and rebuild an individual’s blood and immune system. More recently, cord blood stem cells have been shown to be able to form other tissues in the body such as nerve and bone cells.
There has been considerable scientific and clinical interest in the potential of cord blood stem cells in regenerative medicine. In laboratory work, cord blood cells have been shown to be capable of developing into a range of cell types such as nerve, bone, skin, heart and liver cells to name a few.
These exciting developments have already translated into early clinical treatment of ischaemic heart disease and some neurological conditions. The future of regenerative medicine holds much promise and cord blood is likely to play a major part in this advancement in our ability to treat human disease.
Smart Cells have released 20 cord blood stem cell units for transplants so far.
How do they store them?
When we decided to store our babies stem cells with Smart Cells, they invited us to visit their laboratory which is based in London and see the process for ourselves. It gave us an opportunity to understand the process better and meet the actual people who are experts in what they do.
Firstly we had to change into protective clothing to be allowed to enter the laboratory, in the the first room someone's sample had just arrived and was being examined. It arrives in a special Smart Cells Stem Cell Collection Kit box. You receive the kit when you sign up with Smart Cells and should keep it close by together with your hospital bag, as it is coming with you to the delivery room! The collection kits that are received at the laboratory contain the baby’s samples, the box includes at least 15ml of your baby's umbilical cord blood and a section of the umbilical cord itself. After a quick initial examination it is sent thought to the next room for the next stage.
Every step of the way, it is handled with great care, it is checked for correct labelling at each stage and for any contamination. We were very impressed with the level of technology they use, their efficiency and transparency with their customers.
Each blood sample is put in a special machine, where it gets separated into various components and only useful part is kept for storage. After this the sample is put into a cryogenic bag and once again labelled and checked. Smart Cells make sure that each sample they store contains enough stem cells for a clinical treatment in the future. The cord is dissected into 4little pieces and put into a special solution, it means it can be used on 4 different occasions without touching the other samples.
The most important bit is the freezing itself! And it is not as easy as it sounds, they need to lower the temperature down to -196ºC very very slowly otherwise it can damage the samples. So they are placed in a special cooling machine, where it is kept for hours.
Once it has reached the desired temperature , each sample is labeled with its allocated slot in the storage freezer so it is easily found if requested.We had to wear a special protective clothing and equipment including cryogenic waterproof aprons and gloves and a face shield in order to be able to handle the cold for only a few minutes!
The cord blood and tissue samples are stored for 25 years and can be released if required for a treatment to help the baby, siblings of the baby or potentially the parents of the baby too.
We learned so much on the day, and any questions we had weren't too silly or unimportant for the Smart Cells staff. After seeing the laboratory and how professionally they handled us, we felt extremely confident in choosing Smart Cells as our stem cell bank for our baby.
We would like to say a huge thank you for spending time with us and being patient!
Visit their website for more information https://www.smartcells.com