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Newborns' stem cells lost in storage failure

9 April 2018
Appeared in BioNews 944

A storage failure at a private UK tissue bank may have resulted in the loss of valuable stem cell samples obtained from newborn babies.

Reports suggest staff were unable to process multiple umbilical cord blood samples due to a shortage of basic laboratory supplies following the financial collapse of Precious Cells International (PCI).

Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells collected at birth from tissue that would otherwise be discarded, offering a less controversial alternative to embryonic stem cells

These cells can be banked privately for personal or family use – as a safeguard in case of future illness – or donated to a public bank to benefit others. The stem cells can be used to treat a range of conditions including sickle cell anaemia and leukaemia.

PCI, based in Stockley Park near London, had partnerships with six NHS hospitals. They are working with the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) to establish the viability of the samples in question.

The HTA said. 'We have identified a small number of client samples that were not processed or stored. We are working with the administrators to ensure customers are advised appropriately and that banked samples continue to be preserved under suitable conditions.'

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Allan Marriot-Smith, the HTA's chief executive, said the body would take action if evidence of 'regulatory breaches or other offences' was found. 

In response to the current situation, PCI stated that it was 'with sadness that the company entered into administration'. 

Their lawyers continued: 'All samples remain safe and secure... and administrators are working with the regulatory bodies to ensure future access to the company's public stem cell bank is available for all hospitals.'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Precious Cells and Pharmacells to enter into administration
Human Tissue Authority |  29 March 2018
Probe launched over babies stem cell storage ‘failure’
The Sunday Times |  1 April 2018
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