Cryopreservation of Stem Cells: Everything You Need to Know

The cryopreservation of stem cells has as main purpose to ensure the health of the future adult through their therapeutic potential.

The birth of a child involves making several decisions. One of these is the cryopreservation of stem cellsfrom the umbilical cord at the time of delivery, as the formula is a preventive for diseases in the future.

However, being this a costly process, it is important to clarify the details and potentials of this process, as well as possible doubts that may arise in the minds of parents, so that to make a more informed choice.


For a long time, the umbilical cord was considered material, without a therapeutic value, being discarded and destroyed after the birth.

However, in recent decades the situation has changed, being the umbilical cord, currently, seen as a source of stem cells with a therapeutic potential important.

Indeed, how is the blood located inside the umbilical cord blood is rich in haematopoietic stem cells, cells that have a power proliferative very high. For this reason, enable you to result in all the elements of the blood and immune system.

On the other hand, the tissue of the umbilical cord contains stem cells, mesenchymal cells, with the ability to differentiate into multiple cell types such as skin, bone, muscle, cartilage, nervous tissue and fat.


The stem cells from the umbilical cord are used as a potential treatment for more than 80 diseases, such as diseases, hemato-oncology (leukemias and lymphomas), diseases of the immune system and some genetic pathologies.

However, it is important to note that these diseases are rare and that the likelihood of a child needing a transplant by the age of 20 years is extremely low, which limits the therapeutic potential of these cells.

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Already with the increase of age, this probability increases. But there are no guarantees that a sample of umbilical cord blood has good quality past 20-25 years of storage.

In addition they can be used in your own (autologous transplant), these cells allow a brother or another family member the closest (allograft) can use the sample criopreservada in case of illness.

Transplants autologous have as main advantages:

  • Are immediately available and there is no need to identify a donor compatible;
  • Lower risk of complications;
  • There is no need of immunosuppressive therapy in order to ensure that the transplanted cells do not attack the body or that the body rejects the transplanted cells;
  • The immunological reconstitution is more rapid than after a transplant heterólogo/allograft;
  • There is a lower risk of opportunistic infections;
  • The rate of effectiveness is high because the failure of the transplant occurs rarely and mortality related to treatment is less than 5%.

Despite these advantages, the cryopreservation of stem cells from the umbilical cord can’t be seen as a safe biological against all diseases, and there are situations in which the use is not recommended by own donor.

This is because many of the diseases that have the indication for the transplantation of these cells are of genetic origin, which means that it would reintroduce the disease to eliminate it. In these cases, one should turn to transplants allogeneic.

Already in the case of allograft, the advantages are the following:

  • In the case of cancer, it is apparent that the cells of another donor compatible help fight the cancer cells of the patient;
  • Lower rates of relapse, particularly in cases of malignant neoplasms;
  • Can be used in genetic problems.

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Currently there are several private banks in Portugal that allow the cryopreservation of stem cells from the umbilical cord, but also there is already a public bank for the effect, the Lusocord, in operation in the Centre of Histocompatibility of the North, in Porto.

Unlike private entities, the public bank free the cells from the umbilical cord donated to anyone in need, whether in Portugal or in any other place in the world.

This is a good option for those who do not have financial means or don’t want to resort to a private company, since the process of collection and storage is free.

However, the operation of this bank is based on a system of generous donation, so the donor has no preference about the sample that you gave. This warranty is only possible if you use a private bank.

Another disadvantage of private banks is the fact that the genetic material can only be used by himself or by his family, which for most of the diseases in question is not the solution.


Cell transplants hematopoietic was already done before is to realize that such transplants could be made with the blood of the umbilical cord. These transplants could be made with the use of stem cells of the bone marrow or the filtration of peripheral blood after stimulation with growth factors.

However, the transplants of stem cells from the bone marrow in addition to more time-consuming, is more painful and has a lower rate of effectiveness.

In this context, cells from the umbilical cord have main advantage is the lower risk of disease in the host, when compared with the transplantation of stem cells from bone marrow or peripheral blood, circumstances, compatibility similar, which in turn results in a higher probability of survival of the patient and lower morbidity.


The process of accession to the solutions of the cryopreservation of stem cells should occur up to two months before delivery. At that time, parents should purchase a collection kit blood and tissue of the umbilical cord with the company that they chose to perform the cryopreservation of the stem cells of the baby.

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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 transport time to the laboratory, where it proceeds to the analysis and cryopreservation of cells in liquid nitrogen to 196 negative, for at least 20 years.