Growing inventories of cord blood units have facilitated access to umbilical cord cell transplantation for many patients lacking conventional stem cell donors. They are in principle ‘off-the-shelf’, ‘fit-for-use’, as well as safe and effective therapy products. Cellular enumeration is used as a surrogate of graft potency, and users rely on the rigorous assessment carried out in banks to avoid poor engraftment after thawing (loss of cells or poor function), when the patient's situation is critical. However, in practice, when units are selected, initially on the basis of HLA matching and cell dose assessment, their absolute quality remains uncertain. Unfortunately, quality-related issues (particularly related to viability) are not uncommon in cord blood transplantation. The reasons for potency failures are diverse, but a lack of thorough validation during critical steps of the process and of appropriate use of quality-control tools for timely detection of problematic units are significant contributors. Moreover, incongruence between different sets of standards and regulations, and lack of common quality systems between banks result in a highly heterogeneous international inventory. Therefore, this complicates the matter for the end user of the product. To ameliorate this situation, it is essential to improve quality at each of the critical manufacturing steps wherein potency can be threatened, thereby creating homogeneous inventories of units with excellent quality and quantity.
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Querol, S., Gomez, S., Pagliuca, A. et al. Quality rather than quantity: the cord blood bank dilemma. Bone Marrow Transplant 45, 970–978 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/bmt.2010.7
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