On arrival at our laboratories, the umbilical cord blood will be subject to a number of tests. These will include tests to check that it is not contaminated with any bacteria, the total cell numbers will be assessed as well as the number of stem cells (CD34+ cells), and the viability of stem cells; ie. how alive the cells are.
The mother’s blood sample is tested for the mandatory viral tests (we are required by UK regulations to test the mother’s blood for HIV I & II, Hepatitis B & C, Syphilis and HTLV I & II; human T lymphotrophic virus). A copy of the cord blood and maternal blood test results are reported back to the mother.
During processing, a cryoprotectant is added to the cord blood sample which is then transferred under aseptic (sterile) conditions to a barcode-labelled storage bag and prepared for freezing. Cryoprotectants prevent ice crystals forming during the freezing process which would damage the umbilical cord blood sample as it is frozen. A small sample of the ’waste products’ from the processing of the umbilical cord blood are stored alongside the main sample as these can be used to test the sample prior to its transplantation.
The umbilical cord blood sample is placed into a storage cassette for protection and a tamper-evident seal is applied. The cord blood sample is then transferred to a Controlled Rate Freezer, which as the name suggests, freezes the sample down at a controlled rate. The sample is cooled to -140oC in a controlled manner to prevent ice crystals forming within the cells and damaging them. -140oC has been selected and validated as the initial end-point for freezing, as it is below the critical temperature where all the physical changes occur during freezing. Once this temperature is reached the umbilical cord blood samples are temporarily stored at -160oC before, once a day, the freezers are opened and the canister is placed in its final storage position at a temperature below -185oC. The cord blood samples are stored in the vapour phase of liquid nitrogen at this temperature, ensuring the stem cells stay viable for at least 25 years.
If the cord blood stem cell sample is ever required during those 25 years for transplantation it can be immediately shipped to any location around the world using our specialised cryogenic shipping containers.
Security of your baby’s cord blood stem cell storage and stem cell collection is our priority. Our facility is protected 24/7 by highly sophisticated fire and security systems. We have access control to all areas of the building where client data or samples are held and should any of these areas be compromised then a silent alarm notifies the security remote monitoring centre. A security patrol is then deployed immediately to check the building and call the police if there is any sign of a disturbance. For additional security during the night the patrols routinely visit the site to deter any would-be intruders.
In addition to these measures, we also physically lock any sample storage vessels with a padlock to give added security to the cord blood samples.
We also have a state of the art fire alarm, which is linked to a remote monitoring centre. Any fire alarm activation will trigger a response from the centre, who would call the fire service immediately if required.
Our facility is conveniently located just 5 minutes from the local Fire and Police Station giving added security and ensuring the quickest response times.
Finally, there is no better way of ensuring that the samples are safe than by measuring the temperature that they are stored at. Any change in temperature would indicate there may be an issue. For that reason we have a Temperature Monitoring System, which is fitted to each and every device that holds cord blood samples. The temperature is relayed to software on a server and any interruption or deviation from the set point temperature triggers an escalating alarm. This alarm is capable of alerting Biovault staff of the issue giving a brief report of the problem via email. This enables the member of staff to respond accordingly.