Cryopreservation of Stem Cell Banks: Public or Private?

Stem cells: the bank public or private? Get to know the advantages and disadvantages of each of the systems and make a more informed choice.

The cryopreservation of stem cells is a topic very current and increasingly relevant in contemporary society, due to the therapeutic potential that these cells possess.

However, the question that rises is: stem cells: public bank or private?

In effect, the stem cells that are present in the umbilical cord and bone marrow can be used as therapy for some diseases, such as lymphomas, leukemias, genetic diseases, immune system, and other rare diseases.

Cryopreservation of Stem Cell Banks Public or Private 1

In this context, cells from umbilical cord blood are more used than the bone marrow because they are less likely to cause disease in the receiver, and, in this way, the transplants have a higher success rate and lower mortality rate.


The process of accession to the solutions of cryopreservation should occur up to two months before the birth.

The procedure of harvesting of the cells is the responsibility of the obstetrician, that must be informed by parents in advance, being totally safe and painless to both the mother and the newborn.

After harvesting, the bank chosen by the parents is informed to make the transportation to the laboratory, where it proceeds to the analysis and preservation of cells in liquid nitrogen to 196 negative, during about 20 years.

Let’s see, then, if you should choose by private banks or by the bank to the public.


In many countries, the public and private banks for preservation of stem cells have different characteristics, and may even complement each other.

In the case of Portugal specifically, there are already several private banks and a public bank, the Lusocord, in operation in the Centre of Histocompatibility of the North, in the Port, that enable the cryopreservation of stem cells from the umbilical cord.

To better understand the differences between the public and private banks, we indicate below the main differences:

Cryopreservation of Stem Cell Banks Public or Private 3

  1. Private banks are stored samples of umbilical cord blood (UCB) for use in autologous (own) or alogénica related (in the family). In public banks, the samples of the SCU are donated to be used in transplants, allogeneic, or is, by a person other than the donor.
  2. Thus, in the public bank, the stem cells are not only saved for the donor. Can be used by any person, including other patients compatible, in Portugal or in Europe, or even for scientific research. In private banks, and the cells can only be used by the donor or family.
  3. By the fact that to have the samples saved in a private bank, does not mean that you can’t use the stem cells preserved by public bank, if they are compatible.
  4. The probability of finding a matching donor outside of the family is 0.01%, however, the probability of a brother to be compatible is 25%. In cases of compatibility, there is always the possibility of a bone marrow transplant between brothers, for example.
  5. The type of transplant (allogeneic or autologous) depends on the type of disease to treat. This is because, in spite of the autologous transplant provide more benefits and security, there are certain diseases which, being genetic, can not be treated with an autologous transplant, because it would reintroduce the disease in the donor.
  6. The samples of stem cells in a public bank go through a selection tighter at that, according to the CNECV (National Council of Ethics for the Life Sciences), are of top quality. This can be related to the fact that the public banks keep only a limited number of samples, opting for the best.
  7. There is still not enough research that ensure the good preservation of the stem cells at the end of more than twenty years of preservation, by which time there might be more need of being used.
  8. Up to now, the childhood diseases that can be treated are rare and, even in these, the use of the stem cells is always the last resort.
  9. 9. The conservation of stem cells in a public bank is free of charge. In private banks, involves costs ranging from 895€ to 2400€ depending on the package chosen.
  10. According to information from the Centre of Histocompatibility of the North, the public bank only has a partnership with the Hospital of St. John, the Júlio Dinis Maternity hospital and the Hospital Pedro Hispano, all in the Port. It is necessary that the pregnant woman is accompanied, at least in a query, in these hospitals, as well as the delivery will have to be in one of them.

Cryopreservation of Stem Cell Banks Public or Private 2


It is possible to say that to invest in the storage of cells from umbilical cord blood in a private bank may be advantageous in the future, when the advance of science ever be able to resolve the issues of the limiting process, but for now, there is a lot, especially because the use is limited only to the donor and to your family and the quality of the product falls far short of the quality of the product in the public banks.

The public banks are a better option both for those who do not have the financial means as to be no more guarantees of success in transplants, since as widen the possibilities to a larger number of people.

However, before you make a decision, check with credible sources, talk to your family doctor, your gynecologist, search for real cases and try to know as much as possible about stem cells, their application and effectiveness.