Netcells Cryogenics

About

Netcells Cryogenics is Africa's largest stem cell laboratory and cryogenic facility based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Netcells is a privately owned South African company that has been in operation since 2005. Netcells is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), which gives parents assurance that they process and store according to international standards. Netcells offers parents the opportunity to store both their baby's umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord tissue at birth.

Labs and Locations

Netcells has a state-of-the-art laboratory with a Class 100,000 Clean Room processing facility, situated in Midrand, Johannesburg.

Business Experience

Netcells processed and stored its first cord blood sample in December 2006 and has stored for over 5,500 clients in South Africa. Netcells stored its first cord tissue in May 2010.  Netcells can successfully isolate mesenchymal stem cells from thawed cord tissue and culture these for therapy.

Netcells also processes adult peripheral blood stem cells for leading South African Haematologists and Oncologists and has to-date thawed over 150 collections which have successfully engrafted. Most of these have been for South Africa’s largest stem cell transplant unit at Netcare’s Pretoria East Hospital as well as the Oncology unit at the Donald Gordon Medical Centre.

In March 2011, Netcells launched adult adipose (fat) tissue stem cell banking. Both the SVF (stromal vascular fraction) and isolated pure mesenchymal stem cells are banked.  These mescenchymal stem cells can be cultured pre- or post-thaw into numbers sufficient for therapy.  Employing cutting-edge Intellectual Property, these stem cells have been used in therapeutic applications for skin regeneration (anti-aging, wound healing and burns, scar remodelling, and pigmentation) and some neurological disorders with encouraging results.

In June 2012, Netcells launched it services of freezing and cryopreserving semen, which is especially needed by men prior to undergoing oncology treatment and vasectomies.

Collection Kit

The Netcells collection kit contains:
•    Sterile  blood collection bag with sterile cleaning material
•    Sterile collection tube containing phosphorylated saline for collection of umbilical cord tissue
•    Thermal cool gel pack to encase the blood bag
•    Thermal insulated foil bag to store the blood bag and collection tube during transport
•    Client identification stickers to place on the blood bag and collection tube once the samples are collected
•    All necessary documentation

Transportation Container

Netcells uses the latest ambient temperature controlled kits (not polystyrene boxes) to transport the cells to the laboratory. The Netcells collection kit contains a thermal insulated bag which ensures that the cord blood and tissue are maintained at a constant temperature throughout transport. The external box is labelled according to the AABB and IATA standards.

Shipping Info:

Netcells uses Biotech (a special medical division of courier company Skynet) to collect the cord blood samples and deliver them to the Laboratory in Johannesburg. Netcells aims to get the stem cells to its laboratory within 24 hours of the birth of the baby. Should the stored stem cells ever be needed, Netcells has a cryogenic shipper with temperature monitoring that allows the cells to be transported in their frozen state to a transplant centre anywhere in the world.

Processing Method

Netcells processes cord blood with the state of the art, fully automated Sepax processing system from Biosafe.  The Sepax processing kit is a sterile, single-use, functionally closed system, so that the cord blood never comes into contact with the external environment. Processing separates three blood components: (1) red blood cells, (2) plasma and (3) the buffy coat,  which contains all the white blood cells including the stem cells. A cryopreservative agent, DMSO (Dimethyl Sulfoxide) is then added to the buffy coat which increases the porosity of the cell wall and ensures that the cells are not damaged during the freezing process. Flow cytometric analysis is also performed to ensure sufficient numbers and viability of CD45+ and CD34+ (haematopoietic) stem cells have been collected for storage.

Components Stored

Cord Blood
The buffy coat fraction of cord blood containing white blood cells and stem cells is collected in a small bag which is stored in a protective aluminium canister alongside two test cryovials.

Cord Tissue
Cord tissue is dissected into small segments and stored in a cryoprotective agent in five 1.5ml cryovials.

Storage Method

Cord Blood
The cord blood stem cells are hermetically sealed in a cryogenic bag and encased in an aluminium cassette. This  provides the cells with physical protection during storage and transit, but more significantly, the aluminium cassette is also fundamental to the success of the freezing process by providing a consistent heat path. The cells are then slowly and precisely frozen using a controlled rate freezer, which ensures that the cells are not mechanically damaged during the freezing process.

Cord Tissue
The dissected cord tissue sections are placed in cryovials with a cryoprotective agent and frozen using the same method as the cord blood. 

All samples are initially stored in a quarantine tank in the vapour phase of cryogenic nitrogen and moved into final storage  following confirmatory maternal blood tests.

Licensing & Accreditation

Netcells is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (Membership number: 1067030) and provides state of the art cord blood and tissue banking.

Clinical Experience

Netcells has released over 150 peripheral blood stem cell units for transplant and over 70 Adipose derived Mesenchymal Stem Cell units for therapy.

Insurance

1. Netcells has insurance coverage and in the unlikely event of anything ever happening to the stem cells, the client will be refunded the amount paid in terms of their contract with Netcells.

2. Netcells has an affiliation with Smart Cells International (UK’s longest established stem cell company) and in the unlikely event of anything happening to Netcells, Smart Cells will take over storage of the stem cells.

3. Netcells takes extreme measures to protect its stored stem cells. Netcells additionally has:
•    Sophisticated technology to automatically and electronically monitor their facility and equipment 24 hrs a day
•    A fire detection & suppression system
•    24 hr camera surveillance
•    Fingerprint access control
•    UPS and a generator in case of electricity cuts

Community Service

South Africa does not have a public cord blood bank. Netcells has undertaken to store directed donations from state-funded patients for free. Under this program, Netcells has stored stem cells for patients from the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, and the Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town.

Netcells will also refund clients their processing and storage fees if the cord blood stem cells are retrieved and transplanted within the first year of storage.

Netcells also gives the Gynaecologists that collect the cord blood and tissue at birth the opportunity to donate their procedural fees to chosen charities for the year. 

These charities are:
•    CHOC (Childhood Cancer Foundation SA). The donation was used to contribute to the well-being and treatment of children with cancer and life threatening blood disorders in both the CHOC houses and wards.
•    The Sunflower Fund. The core purpose of the Sunflower Fund is to “educate, recruit and raise funds to build and sustain an effective South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) as a viable source of well informed ethnically diverse potential bone marrow donors, so as to meet the national and international requirements and improve the chances of life-saving transplants for serious blood disorder sufferers.” Netcells endorses the Sunflower Fund, as they both have the same interests in trying to give patients that are diagnosed with blood cancers a second chance in life.

Prices

Local Storage at the Netcells Laboratory situated in Johannesburg:
Cord Blood: R14,500.00
Cord Blood and Tissue: R18,500.00

•    Netcells pricing is all inclusive and covers the first 10 years storage as well as maternal blood tests.
•    Option to upgrade the storage period to 20 years for an additional R1,500 for Cord Blood and R2,000 for both Cord Blood and Cord Tissue.
•    Netcells does not charge any annual storage fees so clients do not have to worry about the inconvenience of annual payments and the burden of uncertain inflationary increases.
•    A R1,000 settlement discount is offered if payment is received in full upon registration.
•    Netcells offers affordable payment plans. No interest, no FICA and no credit checks. See Payment Plans on the Netcells website.

Additional Services

For those people who never had the chance of storing stem cells at birth, Netcells offers adult stem cell banking, where mesenchymal stem cells are isolated and cultured (grown), post a mini-liposuction.  These stem cells are then available for future potential therapies.