Singapore-based cord blood storage company, Cordlife Group, is facing scrutiny after the Ministry of Health (MOH) revealed that cryopreserved cord blood units stored with the company had been exposed to suboptimal temperatures, rendering them unsuitable for stem cell transplant purposes. Investigations are ongoing, and the MOH is considering enforcement actions such as financial penalties or prosecution. Cord blood, which contains haematopoietic stem cells used in stem cell transplants for blood diseases and cancers, is typically stored as a form of insurance. Cordlife Group charges an initial payment and annual fees for storage.
Affected parents, who have stored their children’s cord blood with Cordlife Group, expressed concerns over the unclear communication from the company regarding the damage to their cord blood units. The company stated that irregular temperature readings were detected in seven of its storage tanks, but the other 15 tanks were not affected. Nonetheless, the company will conduct viability testing on all stored cord blood samples. Some parents are now skeptical of the condition of the remaining cord blood units. Cordlife Group has reassured affected clients that it will continue to store the damaged cord blood units until the child turns 21, and all future storage fees will be waived.
Parents who were banking on the cord blood for potential stem cell therapies feel betrayed by Cordlife Group and are seeking clarification on their recourse options. They question the value of storing damaged cord blood and hope for compensation from the company. There are concerns regarding the impact of the temperature exposure on the viability of the stored stem cells. The MOH did not disclose the specific temperature to which the cord blood units were exposed but stated that it was above acceptable limits. As investigations continue, the affected parents anxiously await further updates and assurance concerning the future usability and benefits of their stored cord blood.