Stem cell storage FAQs

The answers to all of your questions about saving your baby’s stem cells on one easy-to-use page.

Top 5 most common stem cell storage questions

1. What is stem cell storage?

Stem cell storage means the collection and cryopreservation of stem cells in umbilical cord blood and tissue for future use in stem cell treatments or clinical trials. Storage can either be:

  • private – for the exclusive use of the baby and their family
  • public – available for use by anyone

2. What is the difference between storing cord blood and cord tissue?

Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of certain types of stem cell, including Haematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs). Doctors currently use these stem cells to treat various blood cancers and immune disorders. They are also using tissue-forming Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) in various clinical trials, which are considered to have huge potential for regenerative therapies.

Umbilical cord tissue also contains MSCs. In addition, it is an important source of further stem cell types not found within the cord blood. These include perivascular and endothelial stem cells, which scientists are investigating at clinical trial stage for use in various therapies. By storing the stem cells from both cord blood and cord tissue, you give your child the best opportunities for treatment in the future.

3. Should I store stem cells for all of my children?

Any one of your children’s cord blood and tissue stem cells will have a 1 in 4 chance of being a perfect match for their siblings and a 3 in 4 chance of being a usable match, so they will be better protected than if you had not chosen stem cell storage at all. However, to guarantee a perfect stem cell match for all of your children, you should save the stem cells from each of their births.

4. What are the current uses for my baby’s stem cells and how could they be used in the future?

Storing your baby’s stem cells could give them access to a huge range of treatment opportunities throughout their lifetime. Currently stem cells from cord blood form therapies for more than 80 different blood and immune diseases including Leukaemia, Neuroblastoma, and Sickle Cell Anaemia.

Stem cells are also being investigated in thousands of clinical trials for use in regenerative medicine, including for many currently incurable conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, brain injury and many more.

5. How much does stem cell storage cost?

The price for saving your baby’s umbilical cord blood should start at around £550 plus a small annual fee. With Cells4Life, you can also choose to purchase additional services, such as storing your baby’s cord blood and tissue samples in multiple units, to make your baby’s stem cell package as comprehensive as possible. Visit our cord blood pricing page for more information.

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About stem cell storage

1. What is cord blood?

Umbilical cord blood is the blood that remains in your baby’s umbilical cord and placenta after they are born. This blood is a rich source of young and powerful stem cells that parents can save for their children to use in various therapies.

2. What is cord tissue?

Umbilical cord tissue is a section of the umbilical cord itself, which, like the cord blood, is also a valuable source of stem cells.

3. Why are my baby’s stem cells so special?

Having your baby’s own stem cells is important as they are their perfect match. This means that if your baby needs stem cells for regenerative medicine they have their own ready and waiting with no risk of rejection.

4. Who can use my baby’s stem cells?

By saving your baby’s stem cells, you also provide protection for other family members too. For example, they have a 1-in-4 chance of being a perfect match, and a 3-in-4 chance of being a useable match for their brothers and sisters, and may even be suitable for the parents as well.

5. How long can you store stem cells?

Cord blood banking is a relatively new service, so we have only been able to thaw and prove the viability of stored samples for up to about 25 years of age. However, based on their experience with other types of cell storage, the scientific consensus is that your baby’s stem cells will be viable for storage indefinitely, ensuring that they are available when they need them most – in old age.

Treatments and clinical trials

1. What can stem cells be used for today?

Currently stem cells from cord blood are the routine treatment for over 80 different blood and immune diseases and cancers. Conditions such as leukaemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, anaemia and many more.

2. What could stem cells be used for in the future?

The potential uses for stem cells in therapy appear to be limitless. At present there are more than 7,600 clinical trials investigating the application of stem cells to treat a range of common and often life-threatening conditions including Alzheimer’s, spinal damage, heart disease and diabetes. Saving your baby’s stem cells could help to protect their health throughout their life.

What costs are involved in storing cord blood?

1. What does stem cell storage cost?

Prices start from £550 for a cord blood only service plus an annual fee. With Cells4Life, you can choose to make your baby’s package more comprehensive with optional extras like cord tissue, amnion and placental cells giving your baby the best protection available.

You can also store cord blood, cord tissue and amnion in multiple portions across two separate storage locations. This ensures the possibility of multiple treatments and extra protection in the unlikely event of a disaster.

2. When are the payments due?

Cells4Life charges a deposit of £210 prior to birth in order to provide your cord blood collection kit and set up the service. If you require a licensed third-party to collect your baby’s cells, the phlebotomy fee is also due before your baby is born. We do not require the remainder of this balance until after the birth and once we have performed tests to confirm that the stem cells are viable and suitable for storage. If the viability of your baby’s sample falls below 70% we will give you the option to continue to store the cells, or destroy them and pay no further fees.

3. What payment plans are available?

We give you the option to spread the remaining balance after birth for any period up to 12 months for an administration fee of just £20 per month.

4. Is there any special pricing for multiple births?

We offer a 50% reduction on our cord blood and cord tissue stem cell storage services for each additional child of the same birth.

5. Is there any reduction if you have used Cells4Life to store your baby’s stem cells before?

If you have used our services to store stem cells for your other children, you will receive to a £150 reduction from your total balance.

What's involved?

1. How do I set up stem cell storage with Cells4Life?

To set up your baby’s cord blood banking, you simply need to complete and return your consent forms and pay a deposit of just £210. We will then provide you with your collection kit and assign your phlebotomist, so that everything is set up and ready to go on the big day.

2. What happens on the day?

When you go into labour, all you need to do is bring your collection kit with you to the hospital and contact your phlebotomist to let them know that your baby is on the way. They will wait until your baby arrives and the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, before performing the stem cell collection in a separate room using your collection kit. Once the sample has been collected, they will hand the kit back to your birthing partner who will just need to contact our 24/7 dedicated medical courier. Our courier will arrive in around 1-2 hours to collect the sample and bring it directly back to our laboratory. We will process your baby’s cord blood within 12-24 hours, test it and place it into long-term storage, ready and waiting for when your baby or your family need to use it.

3. What information will I receive about my baby’s stem cells?

Once we have processed your baby’s stem cells, we will contact you within two working days to let you know the results. This will include the volume of blood received, the viability of the cells and the maternal test results. After 7-14 days, we will also provide you with the sterility testing results and once you pay the remaining balance, a certificate of storage.

4. How do I access the cells if they are needed?

To access the cells you simply need to complete our sample request form and provide us with permission to liaise with the treating physician. We will then arrange everything with your doctor, to ensure that the cells are shipped and prepared for the date of treatment.

5. What happens if I move to a different country?

We provide our service to clients all over the world and have experience in cord blood releases for treatments outside of the UK. If you move abroad we simply ask that you provide us with your updated contact details so that we can stay in touch, and the sample request process will work in exactly the same way as it does for our UK service.

6. If I choose delayed cord clamping can I also have my cord blood collected?

Yes you can. Umbilical cord stem cell collection is possible whatever your birth plan and should never get in the way of what you want to do. A recent NHS study showed that delaying clamping for 1-2 minutes did not significantly impact on collection volume or TNC. If you opt to delay the clamping period beyond 2 minutes the cord blood may start to clot making collection more difficult. However, our CellsPlus service provide more stem cells at the point of therapy that other industry leading systems, meaning even smaller samples collected after an extended delay may still be useful, and, even if it is not possible to collect any blood, we will almost certainly be able to collect stem cells from cord tissue.

Stem cell storage with Cells4Life

1. What is the difference between Cells and CellsPlus?

The number of cells in a sample is crucial, as it can mean the difference between only having enough to treat a small child and being able to treat an adult. CellsPlus provides 2-3 times more stem cells at the point of treatment than other cord blood processing systems*. This is why it is the UK’s most popular service.

Our Cells service is slightly more affordable than CellsPlus, and does not preserve as many stem cells, but it is the next best system. 

2. Can I use my baby’s stem cells multiple times?

Most cord blood banks store your baby’s cord blood as one unit, meaning that no matter how little of the sample is needed for treatment, the entire sample must be thawed for use. We can split your baby’s cord blood into multiple samples, meaning that we can thaw smaller amounts leaving the remainder in storage for additional therapies. This has already enabled one of our clients to receive multiple stem cell transfusions during their treatment for acquired brain injury.

3. Where will the stem cells be stored?

We store all of our clients’ samples at our UK facilities. You can opt to store your baby’s cord blood, tissue and amnion across two of our sites, giving you ultimate protection in the unlikely event of a problem at one of them.

About stem cells

1. What are stem cells?

Simply put, stem cells are the building blocks of life. They are capable of ‘specialising’ or ‘differentiating’ into almost any tissue type, and are responsible for renewing the body. When stem cells divide, they make more of themselves and other cell types. This proliferation is what makes transplantation effective.

2. Where do stem cells come from?

1 – Embryonic stem cells
Derived from embryos aged three-to-five days, this kind of stem cell is incredibly powerful. They are pluripotent, which means they are capable of becoming any and all possible tissue types. However, there are some ethical concerns with this stem cell source as the embryo is destroyed as a result.

2 – Adult stem cells
Stem cells exist throughout the human body but their number rapidly declines as we age. These cells can be taken from the brain, bone marrow, fat, blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscles, skin and liver.

3 – Perinatal stem cells
Umbilical cord blood, cord tissue and the placenta are the richest sources of perfectly matched stem cells that your baby will ever have access to. They are more naïve than adult stem cells, meaning that they are more powerful and they do not have the ethical issues associated with embryonic stem cells.

There is also a newly discovered stem cell type…

Induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) were discovered in 2006 by Nobel Prize winners, Shinya Yamanaka and Sir John Gurdon. These are skin or blood cells that scientists have reprogrammed back to an embryonic-like pluripotent state. They can propagate indefinitely, as well as give rise to all cell types in the body. Because of this, they hold enormous potential for regenerative medicine. The risk with IPSCs is that we do not yet know how they behave in the human body or whether they could result in cancers. They still require intensive testing to demonstrate safety.

3. Why are stem cells important?

When we are injured, sick or diseased, our cells are damaged or killed. Stem cells are the body’s own repair system. They replenish cells and help us to recover. Without them, the body would be unable to repair and would suffer considerable wear and tear. Sometimes our own stem cells need some extra help and can’t manage the whole repair on their own, which is why stem cell banking is so important.

4. What are stem cells currently used for?

Stem cells are currently used to treat more than 85 conditions worldwide.These are mainly blood disorders, such as leukaemia, anaemia and cancer of the bone marrow.

Some families have also chosen to take part in clinical trials, and we have released several samples for experimental treatments in the USA for brain injury, cerebral palsy, and autism. Stem cell therapy is also available in clinical trial for conditions such as MS, diabetes, stroke and many more.

* based on CyteTech’s peer reviewed publication showing that TotiCyte delivers 2.2 to 3 times more haematopoietic stem cells at the point of use than other cord blood processing systems in use in the UK.

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