Feature

How long can I store my stem cells for?

Clinical Settings 4

It isn't easy to say with any certainty how long stem cells can be stored for. Most cord blood banks do not give an “expiry date” on storage, because with advances in storing procedures and general technological improvements, this is likely to change in any case.

Cord blood banking is a relatively young industry. It has only been in existence for around 25 years so many cord blood banks use that as their benchmark, saying storage can be “for at least 25 years”. There is a reasonable chance that storage can last longer than that, but at present there is no reliable data to support this claim.

Based on studies by Dr Hal Broxmeyer, who invented cord blood storage in the 1980s, it is estimated that cryogenically frozen blood can be stored for many decades, remaining a source of stem cells for therapy.

The more time that passes and the longer cord blood is kept in storage, the greater insight there will be into the longer term viability of the frozen blood.

No expiration date?

“In theory, if the cord blood stem and progenitor cells were properly cryopreserved, it should be possible to keep them in a frozen state for many decades, if not longer, with subsequent retrieval of viable stem and progenitor cells,” Dr Broxmeyer writes.

“Based on the studies in our laboratory, it is likely that cord blood can be stored frozen for decades and still be a potent source of cells for transplantation.”

Many scientists consider that cryogenically preserved cells have no expiration date, and as a result, frozen cord blood could potentially be stored indefinitely. This is based on the fact that cord blood stem cells are stored at, or below, -190 degrees Celsius, where biological activity has ceased so degradation does not occur.

Other cell types have been frozen for over 50 years, and have been viable when thawed.

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