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Senators Announce Cord Blood Stem Cell Bill

By Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
October 24, 2003



Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) -- Three senators have introduced legislation that would promote alternatives to embryonic stem cell research. Pro-life groups support such adult stem cell research and say it is more ethical and more effective than using cells obtained by killing unborn children.

Pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) has joined with senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chris Dodd (D-CT). Together they have announced proposal of the Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2003.

“Cord blood stem cell research holds great promise,” Brownback said.

The bill would fund development of an infrastructure for collecting cord blood stem cells and research using the stem cells.

"Thousands of Americans receive and are saved by bone marrow transplants each year, but thousands more die for lack of an appropriate donor," Hatch said. "For some patients, particularly those for whom a bone marrow match cannot be found, transplantation of these (umbilical cord) cells can be a life-saving therapy."

The bill calls for the collection and storage of 150,000 units of cord blood stem cells at the cost of $15 million in fiscal year 2004. The bill's goal is to provide at least 90% of people in the United States with a stem cell match should they need a transplant, according to Hatch.

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) in July introduced similar legislation (HR 2852) that would establish a national umbilical cord blood bank.

Smith's pro-life bill would authorize $45 million over the next two years to go to blood centers that agree to collect, prepare, and store the blood units for use in treatments.

Philip Coelho, CEO of ThermoGenesis Corp., backed the legislation, saying "The federal financing of this large inventory of cord blood stem cell units provided by this legislation will complete the evolution of this unique cell therapy from pure research to routine clinical practice."

Coelho's company produces an advanced storage system used by many blood banks in over 21 countries.

The bill comes as a response to June hearings on stem cell research.

At the hearing, Dr. Pablo Rubenstein, director of the National Cord Blood Program at the New York Blood Center, said that cord blood banks have provided stem cells for more than 3,500 transplants worldwide and that umbilical cord and placenta stem cells result in less severe immune reaction and less risk of viral infection and are more easily accessible than other stem cell sources.

The bill has the support of the American Cancer Society and major blood centers.

A representative of National Right to Life indicated the organization backs the legislation.

Both bills are awaiting committee action.

Rep. Smith's bill - http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:h.r.2852:

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