Bill Promotes Use of Cord Blood Stem Cells in Treating Disease

Article excerpt

A bipartisan quintet of senators has proposed a bill that would promote the use of stem cells derived from cord blood, or blood collected from the umbilical cord and placenta after childbirth, in treating disease.

At an October 17 press conference, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who hold different views on controversial embryonic stem cell research, hailed what they called "a new commitment to developing a national infrastructure of cord blood stem cell collection and research that could, in time, save the lives of thousands of gravely ill Americans."

The Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2003 (S. 1717) would authorize the Health Resources and Services Administration, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for improving access to health care, to establish and maintain a National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank Network through contracts with existing or new cord blood banks that are certified at the federal and state level. The bill would set as a goal the collection of at least 150,000 units of human cord blood stem cells that are as genetically diverse as possible.

Cord blood contains hematopoietic stem cells that are able to differentiate into a number of specialized types of cells such as bone marrow. Since the early 1990s, a number of physicians have conducted cord blood transplants on children suffering from diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia. In addition, a number of private cord blood banks have been established to meet demand from parents interested in preserving the cord blood of newborn babies as insurance in case of disease.

One problem is that little empirical evidence exists to show that stem cells extracted from a donor's cord blood can be used to help the donor. …