Cord Blood Storage
Once your baby's cord blood arrives at the storage facility, it will be tested to make sure it does not carry any infectious or genetic diseases, like hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, leukemia, or an immune disorder. If there are any problems with the blood, it may not be stored. However, in some instances, the blood may still be stored with the associated risks noted. If in the future the blood is needed, parents can assess whether or not the need for the blood stem cells outweigh the associated risks of the blood.
Blood that will be stored goes through a series of processing before being banked. First, the blood is divided into its parts either through a centrifuge (an apparatus that spins the container of blood until the blood is divided) or by sedimentation (the process of injecting sediment into the container of blood causing the blood to separate).
Once the blood is divided with the red blood cells (RBC) on the bottom, white blood cells (WBC) in the middle and plasma on top, the white blood cells will be removed for storage. It is the middle layer, also known as the "buffy coat" that contains the stem cells; the other parts of the blood are not needed. For some banks, this will be the extent of their processing.
However, other banks will go on to process the buffy coat further by removing the mononuclear cells from the WBC. While not everyone agrees with this method, since very little of the mononuclear cells are actually stem cells, it does result in having less to store. It also means that less cryogenic nitrogen needs to be used on the cells.
Red Blood Cells
It is important to remove the RBC from the cord blood sample. By eliminating the RBC, the stem cell sample has a better chance of being compatible with more people. While people may have the same HLA type (which is needed for the transplanting of stem cells), they may not have the same blood type. By removing the RBC, adverse reactions to a stem cell transplant can be minimized.
RBC can also burst when they are thawed, releasing free hemoglobin. This type of hemoglobin can seriously affect the kidneys of people receiving a transplant. Additionally, the viability of the stem cells are reduced when RBC rupture.
Once the RBC are removed, the stem cells will begin to be frozen for long-term storage.