There are some, who would say that when the blood is extracted from the umbilical cord we deprive the baby from those stem cells and the risk of serious illness is higher. Is there any truth to that?
Absolutely none. After birth the doctor manually pushes the optimal quantity of blood to the baby's body. After that the umbilical cord is being cut. The blood, from which the stem cells for cryopreservation are extracted is in the already cut part of the umbilical cord and if not gathered it is left to pour out.
How is the cryopreservation controlled and what are the guarantees for correct and safe preservation?
There are teams monitoring the cryopreservation containers 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Furthermore, there are 3 levels of automatic alarm systems and controls, which are being activated upon the slightest deviation from the preset parameters. “Saint Lazar” has its own electrical generators, which allows the freezing and processing even in cases of emergencies and power failures. On the first and the fifth year after the cryopreservation, there are scheduled tests of the cells vitality. The longest time stem cells have been stored in the bank is over 5 years and those tests show 100% cellular vitality, which is by itself proof for the quality of the cryopreservation.
Why choose “Saint Lazar” over the big European banks for stem cells?
The big European banks have branches in many countries. Unfortunately in Bulgaria they are represented only by sales networks, which gather the stem cells and send them abroad for processing and cryopreservation. “Saint Lazar” is in Bulgaria and all procedures before the freezing, along with the freezing itself, are done in the bank. That shortens substantially the time period between the gathering of the blood and the actual freezing of the stem cells. It has been scientifically proved, that the optimal time frame between gathering and processing should be no longer than 6 hours. After 24 hours the vitality of the stem cells is drastically reduced, which directly effects their potential usefulness in future.
Is there any danger of getting someone else stem cells?
Absolutely none. There is an electronic file of each and every patient. Furthermore, the cells are being placed in containers, which in turn are placed in aluminum cassettes in metal racks. Every part of that process is being labeled separately. The file contains information about when and where the stem cells are stored, as well as information the freezing slope, which is as unique as the fingerprints.
Are there cases in which the stem cells, stored at “Saint Lazar” have been used for treatments?
Yes. Up to this moment there have been 3 occasions in which that has happened. Last container was sent in the beginning of 2011 to USA.
Lately there has been a lot of talk about creating a public stem cells bank in Bulgaria. If that becomes reality, would you advise such bank to be used?
The cryosaving of stem cells from the umbilical cord blood is very important decision. Unfortunately the possibility is only one - at the birth itself. Whether donated to public bank, to save someone's life eventually, or kept in private bank, to preserve for the health of the child and its family, is a personal decision, which each parent must take on his own.
What is the possibility to find a match in a public bank and how long does the procedure takes?
The search itself might take months and unfortunately there is no guarantee that a compatible match will be found. Such match might be found in banks, which have hundreds of thousands of samples. The price of such search is between 25 000 and 30 000 Euro, which is times higher than the price of private banking.
Do the stem cells lose their vitality when frozen for cryopreservation? How long can they stay in that state?
Theoretically the stem cells don't lose any vitality while in cryopreservation. The first ever container to be “defrosted” was in France after almost 20 years in cryochamber and the cells show 100% accordance to their state before they were frozen. In theory with the proper care, preparation, and cryopreservation the stem cells can be stored forever.
Who is the owner of the stem cells? Who can use them and can the bank use them for other purposes?
Until the child reaches majority the owners of the stem cells are the parents. The cells can be used for treating their original donor, however the risk of rejection when treating family members is slim to none. The bank cannot use the stem cells for any purposes unless instructed by their owner in written form.
Is it worth investing in cryopreservation of stem cells from umbilical cord, when there are available from the bone marrow?
The blood from the umbilical cord, the umbilical cord itself and the bone marrow are sources of stem cells. However their extraction from the bone marrow is invasive procedure, which carries high risk of complications.
What is the minimal vitality and quantity of the stem cells for their successful cryopreservation?
Vitality of 80% and above, and over 30ml total quantity is the absolute minimum to be qualified the sample as acceptable.
Why some banks offer to cryopreserve the stem cells in two containers and in two places?
The preservation of the stem cells in such ways has been advertised to have higher security. With parameters (count, vitality, concentration, etc.) appropriate for one container, to store in two would lead to higher losses when “defrosted”.