Virgin Health Bank has reportedly begun processing and storing cord bloom stem cells in Qatar, having announced the completion of its facility in the Qatar Science & Technology Park earlier this year.

A February (2011) press release from Virgin Health Bank announced the completion of the facility, described as one of the world’s most technologically advanced stem cell processing and storage facilities.

The facility is now believed to be fully operational, according to a report by The Gulf Times.

It is also the first of its kind in Qatar, claims the February press release, and will provide families with access to world class cord blood banking services, creating a technology platform that will enable Qatar to be at the forefront of developments in cellular therapies.

gasworld understands that a whole new era of stem cell research could be just around the corner if the potential of cord blood is realised. Until recently, umbilical cord blood was generally discarded (after childbirth) with the umbilical cord itself and the placenta. By simply saving this and cryopreserving it at -196°C in a liquid nitrogen tank, however, a stem cell-rich source becomes available.

If successful, it’s thought that cord blood and stem cell technologies could treat over 70 diseases and can be used to treat leukemia, sickle cell disease, and metabolic disorders, and more.

Cryobiology is rapidly growing and emerging as an important market for the industrial gases business. This was highlighted in summer 2009, for example, when Air Liquide’s Healthcare business acquired California-based Pacific Science, Inc. – a provider of cryobiology equipment and services to biobanks.