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Cord blood, or umbilical cord blood is extracted from the syringed out from of the umbilical cord during the birth of a child. The placental end of the umbilical is also used to extract cord blood, but it is more commonly referred to as placenta blood. Cord blood has completely revolutionized the world of stem cell research after its discovery in the 80s and has provided the medical world with a number of advanced treatment techniques.
The stem cells present in the umbilical cord blood are used for treating a wide array of life threatening diseases, such as cancer, genetic defects and diseases pertaining to the blood and immune system. Considering the importance cord blood holds in modern medical treatments, it is imperative that they be stored and preserved for future use.
There are a number of cord blood banks which store donated cord blood by employing a number of different strategies. The methods of preservation of cord blood have been derived from the techniques used for bone marrow storage. Prior to storage, extensive tests are carried out to determine the health and integrity of the donated blood. Once all the tests have been carried out by the lab experts the sample is then stored using a technique known as “cryopreservation”. Cryopreservation involves slowly cooling the umbilical cord blood to -90 Celsius, from where it is added to a liquid nitrogen tank to be frozen a t -196 Celsius.
It is important that a cryopreservant be added to the blood in order to ensure that it survives the cryogenic process. Most experts suggest on using dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) as a cryopreservant and that the process should involve slow cooling but rapid thawing. Moreover, the techniques used for processing the blood are as varied as the opinions about the best processing method. Some techniques involve the separation of the red blood cells, whereas others opt to keep the red blood cells.