Let’s understand cord blood stem cells banking

Umbilical cord blood stem cells banking represent all the processes related with the harvesting, transporting, testing, processing and storing of a blood forming stem cells unit, ready to be used for transplant.

Umbilical cord blood represents the blood left in the umbilical cord and placenta after the baby is born. The collection is recommended to be performed after the last umbilical cord pulsations of has stopped, umbilical cord is clamped and subsequently cut.

In case that cord blood is not collected this is usually discarded as “biological waste”, along with the umbilical cord and placenta.

During pregnancy, the fetus requires nourishment and oxygen in order to growth and to develop in mother’s womb. These are provided from mother’s blood through placenta, the materno-fetal organ which represents the interface between the maternal and fetal vascular beds.

Besides mediating the nutrients and wastes exchange, this very complex, multifunctional temporary organ plays a key roles in guiding fetal development. Research in the recent years has shown a very close interrelationship and interdependence between fetal and placental well being, reflected even for adult health.

The blood which remains in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth contains baby's cells, not the mother's.

In the late of ’80 researchers lead by EA. Boyse and H.E. Broxmeyer, from Indiana University in Indianapolis have proven the potential therapeutic value of umbilical cord blood. Most of the baby's cells which are present in the cord blood at birth are blood forming stem cells (also called hematopoietic stem cells)  and progenitor cells (cells with intermediate degrees of maturation, from stem cells to adult blood cell) .

During pregnancy the blood forming cells are initially formed in placenta, then in fetal liver and in the 3rd trimester migrate from liver to bone marrow. The passage from liver to bone marrow are done through fetal blood and continue for a few days after birth.

Umbilical cord blood contains blood forming stem cells and progenitors cells due to migration of  cells  from liver to definitive location of hematopoiesis , the bone marrow. 

During childhood blood cells forming bone marrow (so called red bone marrow) is present in all bone. Then, gradually during grown up process the red bone marrow is replaced by yellow bone marrow, which contains adipose tissue.

In adults, the red bone marrow is present only in flat bones (such as the pelvic girdle, sternum, skull and ribs) in corpus vertebrae  and at the ends of the long bones of the arm and leg.

Red bone marrow is the area where all 3 types of blood cells are formed during the multilevel process of hematopoiesis:

  • red blood cells also called erythrocytes are responsible for carrying oxygen to tissues and organs
  • white blood cells also called leukocytes are responsible for fighting against infectious and diseases
  • platelets also called thrombocytes are responsible for blood clotting and prevention of bleeding

Birth is the unique moment when young hematopoietic cord blood stem cells and progenitor cells can be collected, with no risk for newborn or mother. 

In order to preserve for a long time the therapeutic value of the collected cord blood stem cells and progenitors, these have to be "kept alive" during freezing and thawing procedure.

This is possible by processing procedure, which currently can be performed by partial plasma depleted method or "whole blood processing method" or by volume depleted or stem cells separation method.

No matter of the processing method after processing the cord blood stem cells unit has to be frozen and preserved at -196 Celsius until the release for transplants.

All the processes  related with cord blood stem cells banking has to be standardized and meet the regulations stipulated by European Union Commission Directive, or   AABB (American Association of Blood Bank) or Fact-Netcord Standards in order to get a high quality blood forming stem cells unit, ready to be released for transplant.

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