Safeguarding Your Stem Cells: Q & A With Elizabeth from ViaCord Processing Lab
Elizabeth is Team Lead at ViaCord’s Processing Lab in Hebron, Kentucky. She’s been a part of the ViaCord team almost 10 years and helps manage a wonderful team dedicated to providing the highest quality product possible for our ViaCord families. As Elizabeth says, “Every day we strive to be the best at what we do.”
Is the Lab still processing cord blood and cord tissue units in the timely and high-quality manner families are accustomed to?
Absolutely! I’m proud to say that ViaCord’s Processing Lab remains fully operational during this unprecedented time. We continue to work round-the-clock to process and store the cord blood and cord tissue units as soon as they arrive at our doors. Families should feel confident in knowing that every lab technician is acutely aware that banking is a one-time shot and, and that the stem cells we’re processing have the potential to change a life. That’s why quality has always been, and always be, our top priority. In addition, we have incredible relationships with our courier and suppliers. They understand how important the work ViaCord does is and they’re committed to doing everything in their power to ensure that there will be no disruptions to our services.
Is there any evidence to suggest the Corona virus is found in cord blood or cord tissue units?
According to the American College Of Gynecology (ACOG) on 3/23/20, “Respiratory diseases are typically not transmitted by the transfer of human cells. Currently, there are no reported cases of transmission of COVID-19 by blood products (FDA)”
What processes and procedures do you have in place to prevent transmission of the corona virus or any contaminants for that matter?
ViaCord has always practiced universal precaution. Each cord blood and tissue unit is processed individually, so essentially, units are processed in quarantine from other units. This approach is designed to eliminate the chance for cross contamination. We process every unit in a Class 10,000 cleanroom, which is designed to prevent airborne contamination. Our lab technicians work in small self-contained work areas, called biosafety cabinets, and wear PPE designed to protect the technician as well as the unit during processing. We also have strict procedures for entering and exiting the lab, and exhaustive cleaning regiment for surfaces. As always, we follow best practices and guidelines provided by AABB, FDA, and CLIA.
Are already stored at risk to potential “contamination” from COVID-19?
Cord blood and tissue units that are already in storage would not have an opportunity to be exposed to the virus. Units are stored in hermetically-sealed containers preventing the passage of air, oxygen or other gases in our vapor nitrogen storage tanks. Our cryogenic storage tanks are also protected and housed in a FEMA class storage vault. Since the very first unit ViaCord processed great steps have been taken throughout the process to eliminate the risk of cross contamination.
In the Lab’s 20+ years of experience are there other market conditions that have helped prepare ViaCord’s Lab for this virus?
Absolutely. When you’ve in business for as long as ViaCord, you experience certain conditions that have the potential to impact your daily operations. We have persevered through SARS, Zika and much more. ViaCord has a Business Continuity Plan and a Pandemic Plan that is reviewed annually. These plans prepare our site for such scenarios, including cross-training employees and identifying backup vendors for critical supplies, so that we can maintain business as usual to the best of our ability in the event something occurs.
What measures are the Laboratory Staff taking to protect themselves from the Corona virus?
This virus is having a tremendous impact on a lot of people in a lot of ways, but at ViaCord we have always safeguarded each sample like it’s our own. That was true before the corona virus and it is true now. We have adjusted our staffing and implemented additional disinfection procedures for the facility and our lab, but our routine procedures that have been in place are designed to protect our customers units in an event like this. The lab team at ViaCord is dedicated to the health of our families, as well as our own health. Like everyone in the world right now, we practice social distancing, frequent hand washing, and make only essential trips to the store. We all understand the seriousness of this pandemic and are doing our part to stay healthy and safe. We’re all in this together!