Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Storage and uses of stored cord blood

Storage

What is cryopreservation?
Cryopreservation refers to freezing and storing at low temperatures.

How long can cord blood be stored?
The absolute length of time for the successful storage of cord blood has not been determined. Under appropriate storage conditions, it may be possible to preserve the cells for many decades.

Uses of stored cord blood

Will public cord blood only be used in the UK?
No. It can be used worldwide. Once the cord blood unit has been frozen, it will be stored until required. By consenting to bank your cord blood publicly, you are agreeing to its being registered on national and international databases such as the British Bone Marrow Registry, Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide and the European Marrow Donor Information System (EMDIS). Organisations worldwide can search these databases to find a suitable match for a patient who needs a stem cell transplant.

Are there any limitations associated with the use of cord blood?
Yes. The quantity and the characteristics of cells in the cord blood unit influence how the cord blood unit may be used. For example, a transplant containing too few stem cells may fail.

How likely is it that my child would need to use their stored cord blood? 
Some private cord blood banks provide statistics to illustrate the likelihood that an individual will need to use their banked cord blood. However, estimates of the probability of an individual needing a stem cell transplant tend to vary according to the source and are based on uncertain assumptions. The estimates cannot be directly translated into the likelihood of an individual using their own cord blood unit since this would also depend on other factors such as the number of stem cells within the unit, the quality of the cells and the availability of alternative sources of stem cells such as peripheral blood stem cells (Pasquini 2005).

Is cord blood the only source of stem cells?
Although cord blood storage is a unique opportunity to preserve the stem cells within cord blood, it is not an individual’s only opportunity to access their own stem cells since peripheral blood stem cells and bone marrow stem cells may also be available. Stem cell technologies are developing rapidly, and it is likely that there will be future developments that will find new uses for stem cells. It is, however, by no means certain that these uses will rely entirely on individuals having their own cord blood stored.

How successful are cord blood transplants?
The HTA is not able to give advice about the effectiveness of treatments using cord blood.