Umbilical Cord Tissue Processing Explained
If you have been following this blog for a while, then you know that we spend a lot of time discussing the value and importance of placental and umbilical cord stem cells and the benefits that come from preserving them. However, today we are going to switch gears a bit and get into the technical […]
If you have been following this blog for a while, then you know that we spend a lot of time discussing the value and importance of placental and umbilical cord stem cells and the benefits that come from preserving them. However, today we are going to switch gears a bit and get into the technical aspects of umbilical cord tissue processing and the importance of choosing a private bank with a superior laboratory and processing facility.
What Are Umbilical Cord Stem Cells?
Before we dive into the different processes, let’s take a brief moment to review what umbilical cord stem cells are and why preserving them is beneficial to your family. Stem cells are found in the umbilical cord blood and placental tissue after giving birth. Since cord blood and placental tissue are such rich sources of stem cells, many families choose to collect and store their baby’s cord blood for future medical use.
So why is cord blood rich in stem cells? During labor, the body naturally boosts the immune system of the mother and baby via the maternal-fetal transfer of cells—the same cells responsible for the development of your baby’s organs, tissue, and immune system. This is why cord blood is collected immediately after birth.
The stem cells found in cord blood are currently being used to regenerate organ tissue, blood, and the immune system that may help to treat cancers, blood disorders, immune disorders, metabolic disorders, and bone marrow disorders.
Manual vs. Automated Processing Methods
When it comes to processing methods, not all family stem cell banks are created equally. There are manual and automated processing methods that can make a significant difference down the line.
- Manual Processing
Many believe manual processing is superior to automated processing. It can yield higher stem cell recovery rates and reduced red blood cell contamination. With manual processing, the volume of cord blood collected is calculated and matched to the appropriate amount of reagents needed to preserve the maximum number of stem cells. Our laboratory has been able to successfully process and store as little as 10mL and as much as 200mL. Since every sample size is unique and varying in size, it is important to have the best processing method in place for each variation of volume that is received.
- Automated Processing
Automated processing requires a minimum sample size of 30-40 mL and a maximum of 150 mL. If more or less is received at the lab, the automated system is not designed to accurately account for these volume variations. Every sample size is unique. Manual processing is best suited for processing variations in volumes.
Our Processes Explained
AlphaCord utilizes a manual processing method known as the modified Rubinstein method. Typically, it yields more and healthier stem cells. Manual processing lets the cryobiologist customize the stem cell isolation phase based on the precise volume collected in the hospital.
This results in more stem cells preserved and less damage to them when compared to most other methods. It has also been shown to yield less red blood cell contamination, less toxicity, and a significant decrease in complications when the sample is used. We want to provide the most innovative umbilical cord blood and tissue processing methods to help guarantee the safety and viability of your newborn’s stem cells.
- Umbilical Cord Blood Processing
Umbilical cord blood is the stem cell rich blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta immediately after your baby is born. These stem cells are known as Hematopoietic cells, or blood forming cells, the building blocks of our blood, and are the foundation of our immune system.
- After the birth of your child, a courier will be scheduled to come to your hospital to pick up your kit. Upon arrival at our laboratory, a specially trained cryobiologist will test and process your newborn’s cord blood and tissues using our advanced processing methods. The birth mother’s blood is thoroughly tested to ensure there are no infectious diseases present at the time of collection that could have been transferred to the samples.
- The mononuclear cells found in the cord blood are separated. This is done by adding hetastarch to the sample during the sedimentation phase. Next, more unwanted blood components are removed during centrifugation. Afterward the volume of the sample will be reduced to about one quarter of what was originally collected or roughly 25 ml. Removing a large proportion of the red blood cells and plasma (liquid portion of the blood), which do not contain any stem cells.
- The final unit is positioned in a metal cassette and coded with a unique identifying number. The cells will be gradually brought from room temperature to -196C (-316F). Finally, the unit is placed in a vapor phase liquid nitrogen cryogenic storage tank for long term preservation. Our laboratory is secure and continually monitored. It is outfitted with battery and generator backup systems. The tanks are both electronically and manually monitored for proper temperature and liquid nitrogen levels.
- Umbilical Cord Tissue Processing
Your baby’s umbilical cord contains valuable stem cells that are different from those found in cord blood. Cord tissue refers to the tissue inside the umbilical cord. Wharton’s Jelly is a substance found within the umbilical cord and is an abundant source of valuable stem cells.
- Before the umbilical cord tissue processing can take place, the laboratory thoroughly inspects and washes the cord tissue. Wharton’s jelly, the gelatinous substance within the umbilical cord, is isolated for cryopreservation. The components of the umbilical cord that do not contain stem cells are removed to prevent possible contamination. The remaining portion of the umbilical cord is then dissected into small pieces and placed into multiple sterile vials.
- A test vial is set aside. If the tissue is needed, this vial will be thawed and its stem cells placed in a petri dish for several days. Afterward, sterility and confluence (the amount of the dish that is covered by cell colonies) are measured.
- A cryo-preservative (DMSO solution) is added to each vial prior to freezing. Each vial is labeled with a unique identification number and placed inside a secure cryo-box. Finally, the vials are slowly brought down from room temperature to -196C (-316F) and placed in the vapor phase liquid nitrogen storage tanks alongside the cord blood.
- Placental Tissue Processing
Placentas are also preserved because the tissue is a rich source of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and mesenchymal-like stem cells, which are multipotent in nature.
- Placental tissue stem cells are taken from an inner layer of the placenta. This is done to best isolate and maximize the number of Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) collected. There are many growth factors in this area of the placenta, including amnion cells, which boost MSCs reproduction. By cryopreserving this section, AlphaCord provides its parents with the most options for future use.
- Upon arrival at the lab, the placenta is thoroughly washed using an aseptic cleaning solution. This removes any residual bacteria. Once washed, the placenta is cut into small segments. These are placed into multiple vials containing an FDA-approved cryoprotectant. Each vial is labeled with a unique identification number and placed inside a secure cryo-box. The vials are slowly cooled until they reach a temperature of -196C (-316F). Finally, they are permanently stored in a vapor phase, liquid nitrogen storage tank.
Remember that you only have one chance to save your baby’s cord blood, cord tissue, and placenta tissue, so choosing a trusted and experienced stem cell bank is imperative. For nearly two decades, AlphaCord has worked with tens of thousands of families to preserve their newborn’s valuable stem cells through cord blood and tissue banking.