I have always been curious about stem cell collection. What it entailed, how it was performed and if there are any risks! Having been through IVF processes I am not fearful of medical kits, needles and perhaps some medical intrusion into a very emotional and personal time. However, for many women and their partners this process could be perceived as something too medical and clinical to consider.
Having been to many baby shows over the last 13 years I have often walked past the stem cell collection stands. Always a little worried that I will be blinded with science or given a really hard sell about stem cell collection and storage.
So when I was invited to visit Smart Cells I was intrigued and most eagerly went along to meet the team and I must say I was not disappointed.
My expectation was to find a team of “very polished” sales and marketing people, but instead I was thrilled to meet “real” people who actually set up the company and clearly have a family feel to their business. The people I met where extremely knowledgeable, they did not get too much into the science terminology of stem cell collection and clearly shared with me how they worked, the care they take in looking after their customers and most importantly how personally they take every stem cell collection customer as part of their family.
The amount of care they have taken to build their reputation and business was paramount. Their team was small, but everyone one that I met was sincere, passionate and very careful to make it clear to me that the process was treated with the utmost respect and attention to detail.
So, with my gushing accolade of Smart Cells, would I now go on to a stem cell stand at the baby show to meet them? Yes, I would! Stem cell collection is perhaps not the cheapest option, whoever you choose to use for this service, but for those that do want to collect these special cells, don’t be fearful of the topic, ask lots of questions and make an informed decision, so that it is totally right for you.
Most pregnant women may look at considering this in their third trimester or later stages of pregnancy. So, what is it all about? I hope that below will explain in a bit more detail for you about umbilical cord stem cell storage and the process.
What is umbilical cord stem cell storage?
Cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after a baby is born, which are usually thrown away after the birth. However, as this is a rich source of stem cells, it can be collected, processed and stored to be used later to treat many life threatening conditions.
Once the cord blood has been processed and frozen, it can be stored until a patient with a matching tissue type needs a stem cell transplant, or for the child itself.
The science bit! How does it work?
After the birth, the cord samples and maternal blood are collected by the attending physician or phlebotomist, who will sign the paperwork which is packed in to the Smart Cells kit.
The kit is sealed and handed back to the parents and they ring Smart Cells who will arrange to collect it.
The Smart Cells procedures are undertaken in a sterile, controlled environment by specially trained staff. As soon as a baby’s cord blood is received at the laboratory, the processing will start. When the cord blood arrives at the lab, the red blood cells and the white blood cells are separated. The white blood cells, including the stem cells and any cells of current or future therapeutic value, are stored.
This is referred to as ‘volume reduced processing’ or ‘red cell depletion’, which is the method used by leading transplant centres worldwide, the NHS Blood Bank and The Anthony Nolan Trust. It’s also the method Smart Cells are most experienced in, and it’s why they were the first company in the UK to carry out transplants. Once processing has finished and the volume reduced, the concentrated unit of cord blood stem cells is put into a ‘Pall Bag’ (a sample bag split in to 80/20 ratio) and placed into a controlled-rate freezer where the temperature is very slowly reduced to -196°C.
Once it has reached this temperature, the sample is placed into the long term storage tank. It can remain here for up 25 years or until it is needed for a transplant. There is currently no evidence to suggest that the health of your stem cells will deteriorate after 25 years and experts believe that a baby’s stem cells will be viable indefinitely.
What happens when the stem cells are needed for a transplant?
A stem cell transplant is the infusion of healthy stem cells into a human body. Stem cell transplants can help the body make enough healthy white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets, and reduce the risk of life-threatening infections, anaemia and bleeding. Stem cell transplants are used to treat people whose stem cells have been damaged by disease or the treatment of a disease.
Smart Cells do not charge any additional costs for the transportation of the sample at any time for therapeutic use.
Who are Smart Cells?
Established in 2000 and family-run, Smart Cells International is the oldest private umbilical cord stem cell company in the UK and has collected from over 70 countries worldwide. Smart Cells is the first private UK stem cell storage company to have released stored stem cell units used to treat children with life-threatening illnesses – such as thalassemia, leukaemia and cerebral palsy – and has successfully released more samples for transplant use than all UK competitors combined. They’re also responsible for the most number of successful transplants in the UK