The Stem Cellar

The beauty of pharmaceutical drugs is their stability. Those ibuprofen pills in your medical cabinet can sit there for weeks, months, even years but still dull a sudden headache.

200mg_ibuprofen_tablets Unlike ibuprofen pills, you can’t store stem cells in your medicine cabinet (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Stem cell-based therapies don’t have that luxury because, well, they’re made of living cells. Outside of the body, cells are the opposite of stable. To keep them alive and active, they need to be maintained in a precise mix of liquid nutrients and in a controlled environment of 98.6F with 5% oxygen, or frozen.

Fragile: handle with care
This tight set of conditions makes the processing, storage and transport of cell therapies to doctors and their patients tricky. Studies have shown that frozen bone marrow-derived stem cells start dying within two hours after thawing. Refrigerating them instead isn’t much better. In that case, cells could be…

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