The first cord blood stem cell units to be stored at Europe's most advanced processing and storage facility have arrived at the West Drayton, London, laboratory.
Smart Cells International (SCI), which is the UK's longest-established stem cell collection and storage organisation, opened the purpose-built facility near Heathrow Airport in March 2009.
After rigorous testing of the processing and storage facility and its latest generation technology, stem cells have now started arriving directly from donors and families in the UK and Europe.
"This is an exciting moment for Smart Cells, and for anybody with an interest or involvement in cord blood stem cells. The new laboratories are as advanced as medical technology allows, and located such that they become a facility available to families not just in the UK, but around the world because of our proximity to London Heathrow Airport," said Dr Peter Hollands a director of Smart Cells, and a senior lecturer in biosciences at the University of Westminster.
"The UK is considered to be a world leader in all aspects of cord blood stem cell processing and storage, and is consequently the international destination of choice - we receive many cord blood units from around the world, so the location creates a distinct advantage. This can make a significant difference to collection and storage timelines - effectively, the best and most modern facility in Europe is more easily accessed from Europe, and even further afield, than facilities sometimes in the country of origin of blood samples."
Dr Peter Daly of Smart Cells said: "The new cord blood bank facility is a state-of-the-art Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility. GMP means that it complies with the standards used in pharmaceutical manufacture for environmental conditions and robust reproducible processes and systems.
"It is a modern facility with the latest design and materials used in its construction and the most modern air handling system. The facility uses Sepax equipment for separating out the plasma and red blood cells from the cord blood. This is the industry gold standard and is used widely in public cord blood banks.
"Unlike other UK processing and storage operations, our facility is purpose-built.
"There is also a built-in an advanced facilities management system which allows automated environmental monitoring. Sensors throughout the building and the equipment feed data on air pressure, air particle count and liquid nitrogen level in the tanks back to a central dedicated computer which displays facility status room by room.
"We also have back-up power generation which will maintain energy levels to the facility for at least a week in the case of a catastrophic power failure," said Dr Daly."