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How Long Can Cord Blood Be Stored?
The cryogenic storage of cord blood was pioneered by Dr. Hal Broxmeyer at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He preserved the cord blood for the world’s first cord blood transplant in 1988: the cord blood from newborn Alison Farrow was frozen and shipped to Paris to treat her brother Matt Farrow. Over the decades since then, Broxmeyer’s laboratory has demonstrated that cryopreserved cord blood is still viable after 5, 10, 15, and 23.5 years in frozen storage. Dr. Hal Broxmeyer passed away in 2021, but his laboratory team has continued his work and in summer 2023 they published a demonstration that cryopreserved cord blood is still viable after 27 years in frozen storage. Demonstrations of successful long-term storage of cord blood have been replicated by other laboratories, such as Cryo-Cell in Florida, Medipost in South Korea, and the Düsseldorf Bank in Germany.
The existing research shows that when cord blood is properly cryopreserved, it does not seem to age at all. In Nov. 2018, Australia’s BMDI public cord blood bank announced that they had successfully transplanted a leukemia patient with a donor cord blood unit that had been in storage for 20 years. In May 2023, it was reported at the 10th Cord Blood Conference of the China Maternal and Child Health Association that a young adult in China had been cured of aplastic anemia with their own cord blood that had been in storage for 19 years.
Before cord blood banking was invented, scientists were already cryopreserving cells for the purpose of animal husbandry, where it is desirable to save semen from high value studs. The record for the oldest cryopreserved sperm to yield live births is held by sheep that were conceived with semen that had been frozen at Australia’s Sydney Institute of Agriculture for 50 years. Their laboratory reported that the live birth rate from the half-century-old sperm was equivalent to sperm that had been in storage for one year. The human record for live births from cryopreserved sperm is held by twins that were conceived through in vitro fertilization using semen that had be stored for 40 years.
To conclude, researchers agree that properly cryopreserved stem cells are effectively immortal.