Umbilical Cord Blood Banks


Background: Measures were introduced in both the House and Senate to establish a National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank Network.

Umbilical cord blood stem cells are obtained from the blood contained in the delivered placenta and umbilical cord, which are normally discarded after childbirth. Obtaining these stem cells presents no inherent moral concerns. Through freezing they can be preserved for many years.

According to findings presented in the House measure, cord blood stem cell transplants can be used for bone marrow reconstitution to treat malignancies such as leukemia and lymphoma, genetic disorders such as sickle cell anemia, and acquired diseases. The findings also claim that cord blood stem cells do not have to be matched as closely as bone marrow transplants. This means patients will be more likely to find a suitable unrelated cord blood donor than a matched bone marrow donor. Supporters say a network of at least 150,000 units of ethnically balanced cord blood donors would provide appropriate matches for at least 90% of those seeking these stem cell transplants. Cord blood transplantation would complement conventional bone marrow transplantation. The cord blood can also be used for research on its stem cells, potentially leading to a greater understanding of, and perhaps therapies for, certain chronic diseases, such as Parkinson’s, insulin-dependent diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

House: On July 24, 2003, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced the Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2003 (H.R. 2852). This measure had 35 cosponsors and was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. No further action was taken.

H.R. 2852 would establish a National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank Network of at least 150,000 units of human cord blood stem cells. The network would prepare, store, and distribute human umbilical cord blood stem cells for the treatment of patients. Ten percent of collected cord blood would be reserved for research. H.R. 2852 also would establish a national cord blood stem cell registry and database to document storage, collection and distribution of cord blood stem cells. This database would also contain clinical outcomes related to the network and would be accessible to transplant physicians and other appropriate health care professionals. $15 million was authorized for Fiscal Year 2004, $30 million for Fiscal Year 2005 and such sums as would be necessary for Fiscal Year 2006 through 2008 or until the 150,000 unit inventory is acquired.

Senate: A nearly identical bill, also called the Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2003 (S. 1717), was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). S. 1717 authorized $15 million for Fiscal Year 2004, and such sums as were necessary for Fiscal Year 2005 though 2008. This measure had eight cosponsors and was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. No further action was taken.

For more legislative information, see “Umbilical Cord Blood Banks” under Appropriations Bills.