Cordlife Group Limited (CGL), a cord blood storage company based in Singapore, has been found to have exposed cryopreserved cord blood units to suboptimal temperatures, rendering them unsuitable for stem cell transplant purposes. At least 2,150 clients are affected by this incident, with investigations still ongoing and the Ministry of Health (MOH) considering further enforcement actions such as financial penalties or prosecution. Cord blood, which is the blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born, is stored by parents as a form of insurance in case their children develop diseases later in life. CGL charges an initial payment and annual storage fee for this service.
One affected customer, Mr Tan S. Y., has a 15-year-old son with Fanconi anemia, a rare blood disorder. He stored cord blood for all his children and had hoped to use his younger son’s cord blood for a possible bone marrow transplant for his eldest son. However, with the viability of the stored cord blood in question, the younger son may now need to undergo a procedure to donate bone marrow instead. Other parents who have stored cord blood with CGL have alleged that the company’s communications with customers have been unclear, causing confusion about whether their cord blood units were damaged.
CGL has detected irregular temperature readings in seven of its cryogenic storage tanks in Singapore, affecting approximately 17,300 cord blood units belonging to an estimated 17,050 clients. Investigations are ongoing for these remaining storage tanks. The news of damaged cord blood units has caused distress among parents who had relied on this stored blood as a potential lifesaving measure for their children. The implications of this incident are far-reaching, as the loss of viable cord blood units could have a significant impact on patients in need of stem cell transplants to treat blood diseases and certain cancers.