How Long Can Stem Cells be Effectively Store

Stem cells are the fundamental functional units of a living being that have the unique ability to differentiate themselves into different types of cells; their ability to divide and multiply perpetually promotes regeneration, repair, and growth of the target cells. The medical advantages and the unexplored possibilities of employing stem cells in therapies have led to the inception of stem cell banking.

Cord blood banking is an emergent offshoot of medical research undertaken to process and preserve the stem cells that are abundantly available in the tissues and blood in the umbilical cord.

Nearly three decades in, the discoveries and progress made in related research have only started to reveal the broad scope of stem cell grafting and transplantation.

What is the scope of stem cell banking?

The regenerative nature of stem cells makes it a viable option to treat a wide variety of ailments and disorders, including cancer. The principle behind stem cell banking is to collect the stem tissues and cord blood of newborns and cryopreserve them to deal with any future emergencies. The cryogenic stem tissues and frozen blood are stored under prescribed conditions in specialized settings in the stem cell banks to ensure longevity.

The umbilical cord blood is a rich source of life-supporting stem cells like hematopoietic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells. The hematopoietic stem cells can differentiate and multiply into various types of blood cells, making them a potent medical weapon to treat blood-related diseases and ailments like cancer and anemia.

On the other hand, mesenchymal stem cells, also called stromal cells, can differentiate into specialized cell types like fat, bone, muscles, nerves, and cartilage. The strong regenerative quality of mesenchymal stem cells is being studied and tried clinically to find effective ways to treat diseases like strokes, diabetes, heart diseases, autism, and Alzheimer’s.

A common query among parents who think of cord blood banking is regarding the ‘shelf life’ of preserved stem cells; in other words, how long can the cord blood with viable stem cells be kept under cryopreservation.

To answer the question, findings of clinical trials conducted over the budding trail of stem cell research lay out ‘up to 11 years or longer. Studies have found that¹

● the cord blood cryopreserved for a long time (over 11 years) did not affect the quality of the stem cells and immune system cells in it before and after thawing

● the patient recovery of those who underwent stem cell transplantation was not affected by the quality of stem cells stored for a long time.

● the quality of stem cells successfully recovered upon thawing cord blood depends on the efficiency of the cord blood banks in processing it at the initial stage.

The viability of stem cells to bring about positive recovery in patients is not compromised with time. However, the conditions under which the stem cells are collected, insulated, and processed play a significant role in retaining the quality of stem cells, especially when stored longer.

The main centers where stem cells are stored are a) public cord blood banks and b) private cord blood banks. The umbilical cord tissues and blood are collected at the time of birth, appropriately sealed, and transported to the facilities for processing, following which they are stored at a frozen state until a need emerges.

In their cryogenic state, the progenitor and stem cells, even if they are thawed decades later, are expected to still be viable after thawing, given that

● the processing and storage are carried out in strict accordance to the prescribed standards. The cryogenic storage containers should be maintained at a specific low temperature perpetually

● the personnel can successfully and efficiently thaw the maximum volume of viable stem cells.

The most recent clinical trials have accomplished successful stem cell transplantation with cord blood preserved for 25.8 years.² ; this gives weight to the theoretical hypothesis on the possibility of stem cell preservation for longer terms.

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