Umbilical Cord Blood and Bone Marrow Banks


Background: Measures were introduced in both the House and Senate to promote collection of and transplantation and research using umbilical cord blood or bone marrow both of which contain stem cells.

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.

Similarly, bone marrow tissue contains adult stem cells and is obtained without destroying human lives. Bone marrow transplants treating diseases such as leukemia have been performed regularly for a number of years.

House: On February 2, 2005, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced the Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2005 (H.R. 596). This measure has 49 cosponsors and was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

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, and it would complement conventional bone marrow transplantation.

H.R. 596 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, 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. H.R. 596 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 2006, $30 million for Fiscal Year 2007 and such sums as are necessary for Fiscal Year 2007 through 2010 or until the 150,000 unit inventory is acquired.

On May 23, 2005, Rep. Chris Smith (along with 78 cosponsors) introduced another bill, the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act (H.R. 2520). The measure establishes a transplantation program similar to the one contained in H.R. 596 with the exception that bone marrow samples are also available. Cord blood samples not suitable for clinical use would be available for research. H.R. 2520 creates a database that tracks outcomes related to patients who have received a treatment using a “stem cell therapeutics product,” defined as one using “bone marrow, cord blood or other such product.” The bill authorizes $28 million for Fiscal Year 2006 and $32 million for each of Fiscal Years 2007 through 2010.

On May 24, 2005, in conjunction with debate on another measure (H.R. 810) (see Stem Cell Research above), the House voted to suspend the rules and pass H.R. 2520, 431-yes, 1-no, 2-not voting (two-thirds vote required) (Roll Call 205). The measure has been received by the Senate. No further action has been taken.

Senate: On March 17, 2005, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2005 (S. 681). Very similar to the house bill by the same name, S. 681 authorizes $15 million for Fiscal Year 2006, and such sums as are necessary for Fiscal Year 2007 though 2010. This measure has 11 cosponsors and was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

On June 27, 2005, Sen. Hatch introduced a new bill, the Bone Marrow and Cord Blood Therapy and Research Act (S.1317). The measure was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and has 30 cosponsors. For enhanced Cord Blood Inventory, also aiming at a 150,000 unit inventory, S. 1317 authorizes $15 million each year for Fiscal Years 2007 through 2010 (funds already appropriated for Fiscal Years 2004 or 2005 remain available). For a Bone Marrow and Cord Blood Transplantation Program, the bill authorizes $34 million for Fiscal Year 2005 and $38 million each year for Fiscal Years 2007 through 2010.

Committee: On June 29, 2005, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions marked up S. 1317 and, after adopting a substitute amendment that incorporated the provisions of S. 681 and the House-passed H.R. 2520, approved the bill by voice vote. The final text of S. 1317 was worked out in consultation with House Members. Sen. Hatch stated “he expects the House to pass the legislation once the full Senate passes it” (CQToday, 6/30/05, p. 13).

Floor: On July 11, 2005, S. 1317 was placed on the Senate calendar. On October 24, 2005, the House-passed H.R. 2520 also was placed on the Senate calendar.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has been trying to secure a unanimous consent agreement to bring a package of stem cell research bills to the floor. See Stem Cell Research above. A cord blood bill would be part of this package.

On December 15, 2005, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) asked for a unanimous consent request to consider H.R. 2520. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) objected. He wanted to consider H.R. 2520 only in connection with a bill promoting embryonic stem cell research (H.R. 810). Sen. Frist responded saying that H.R. 810 was controversial and would require substantial debate, but H.R. 2520 has broad bipartisan support and can help patients now. The passage of H.R. 2520 should not be delayed. Sen. Frist again pledged to bringing the package of bill to the Senate floor “early” next year.

On December 16, 2005, Sen. Frist again moved for consideration of H.R. 2520. This time there was no objection. The text of the House-passed H.R. 2520 was struck from the bill and the text of Senate Amendment 2688 (identical to the text of S. 1317, already pre-conferenced with the House) was inserted in its place. As amended, H.R. 2520 passed without objection.

House: On December 17, 2005, the House suspended the rules and passed H.R. 2520, 413-yes, 0-no (Roll Call 664).

Executive: On December 20, 2005, President Bush signed the measure into law (Public Law 109-129).

After attending the signing, Richard Doerflinger, Deputy Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, issued a statement in which he expressed gratitude to Congress and the President for enacting the life-saving legislation without further delay. “In the last days of this session . . . Congress agreed on the kind of stem cell treatments that can begin saving patients’ lives here and now.” Mr. Doerflinger concluded his remarks: “As Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, how appropriate that we can also celebrate the medical miracles made possible by cord blood retrieved immediately after live births.” Enactment of this bill is “a wonderful Christmas present to patients in need.”