There's more to a collection kit than what you need to make the collection.
You did everything right: You were thinking ahead and took the right steps to ensure you stored your baby’s cord blood. You got your kit early, took it to the hospital with the greatest of care and even told the doctor to fill the collection bag like a balloon. Then you’re struck with a double whammy of bad news: Not only does the baby or another family member need the stem cells in the cord blood but you also find out that the collection you took such care in retaining is suboptimal and will not sufficiently provide the stem cells needed for treatment. You could blame luck or even medical science, but it may actually come down to the type of collection kit your cord blood bank had provided.
Why the collection kit matters
Stem cells can be a little finicky and have been shown to lose their regenerative abilities when exposed to temperatures below 39 degrees or above 86 degrees.49 Cord blood banks also lose the ability to conduct valid tests on the mother’s blood for the presence of some infectious diseases if the returning kit goes above 77 degrees for more than 24 hours. Without the proper testing of the mother’s blood, the baby’s blood could be carrying the infection, making the cord blood unusable for other family members. Some clinics won't even accept cord blood if the mother’s blood has not been properly tested.
Keeping the collection kit’s contents in the safe temperature range for the long flights and drives to the cord blood processing and banking facility requires excellent insulation. Many cord blood banks don’t invest heavily in their collection kits and instead, to keep their clients’ collections safe, just hope that the medical courier will not run into any snags or delays. While all cord blood banks would like to get their kit back in less than a day’s time, circumstance and mistakes can delay transportation.
What’s in your collection kit?
There are forms that need to be addressed and bags, cups and vials that need to be filled, but there is much more to a collection kit than everything needed for the collection. Just by looking inside a collection kit, you can discover how well it will keep your baby's cord blood and cord tissue safe. The box itself is the first line of defense against outside temperatures. It usually comprises a cardboard material with a corrugated design that provides minimal insulation. What you’re really looking for comes next, foam or other types of inserts that line the walls of the box. The amount and thickness of the foam and the quality (cross-linked vs. open cell) will affect its ability to hold a temperature. In rare cases, such as our collection kit, vacuum-insulated panels, which can provide up to 10 times the thermal insulation as foam inserts, are used.
Breakdown of our well-insulated collection kit
Beyond insulating materials, more advanced temperature-control measures can be implemented. Here is where you will find gel packs that contain phase-change materials. These materials absorb or release thermal energy as they experience changes in the ambient temperature. This gives them the ability to consistently maintain the moderate 39–86 degree temperatures needed in a cord blood collection kit.
Temperature loggers or indicators, while they do nothing to directly help temperature stability, can also be placed inside the packaging to let the cord blood bank know if it deviated from the safe temperature zone. Temperature loggers or detectors are required by the Foundation for the Accreditation for Cellular Therapy (FACT), the international cord blood accreditation body that holds its members to the most stringent quality standards.
What are you to do?
You may not be a package engineer, but you can gain a lot of insight just by looking closely at your collection kit. Open it up and assess the following:
- What kind of material composes the box? Is it thick and substantial?
- Is the interior encased in thick foam or, preferably, vacuum-insulated inserts?
- Are there gel packs inside?
With this information in hand, you can gain some insight into how well the collection kit may perform. In tests we’ve conducted, solid boxes with a little bit of foam lasted 1–5 hours. We've found many cord blood banks fall into this first category, and unfortunately, foam and cardboard alone are not enough to provide proper insulation. Some thicker foams or coolers with a single small gel pack could get 5–20 hours; meanwhile, more advanced collection kits, like the one we use here at Cryo-Cell, with vacuum-insulated walls and multiple big gel packs, can last for seventy-two or more hours.
Some kits may hold a safe temperature range for only a couple of hours.
Even if your cord blood service says your baby's stem cells will make it there in one day, do you really want to take a chance with a collection kit that can't stand the heat—or the cold? If not, maybe you may want to re-think whom you entrust with your baby's stem cells.
Click below to learn how our collection kit provides 30x longer protection from extreme temperatures than other private cord blood banks' kits.