Patients Want Congress to Back Cord Blood Stem Cell Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 5, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Patients Want Congress to Back Cord Blood Stem Cell Bill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 5
, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Two patients who saw their medical fortunes improved because of adult stem cells called on Congress at a press conference Monday to pass bill that would promote the embryonic stem cell research alternative. The measure would also establish a national program to bank umbilical cord blood.

Keone Penn, an 18 year-old from Atlanta, says the umbilical cord blood contains stem cells — that he credited with changing his life.

"Believe me, as a teenager, being in the hospital more times than you can count is not a way to live your life," said Penn, a recent high school graduate. "Stem cells saved my life."

Cord blood stem cell transplants cured Penn’s sickle cell disease, according to a Scripps Howard news service report.

Lawmakers introduced the Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2005, S681, in May "to establish a National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank network to prepare, store and distribute human umbilical cord blood stem cells for the treatment of patients and to support peer-reviewed research using such cells."

This legislation follows the initial $19.4 million appropriation with extended funding which may exceed $150 million over five years.

Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who has gotten himself in trouble with pro-life groups for backing embryonic stem cell research, is the lead Senate sponsor. Longtime pro-life lawmaker Chris Smith, a New Jersey congressman, is heading up the bill in the House.

Neonatal cord blood stem cells are used in the treatment of malignant, genetic and acquired blood diseases, such as leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, and immunodeficiencies. Cord blood as a source of stem cells is available faster than bone marrow and provides survival rates for patients with these usually fatal diseases that can be as good, or better, than those following adult donor bone marrow stem cell transplants.

Philip Coelho, CEO of ThermoGenesis Corp., a cord blood stem cell company, backs the legislation.

"Cord blood stem cell transplants are already curing hundreds of U.S. patients from these otherwise lethal diseases each year," he said.

"This 150,000-unit inventory will provide life saving stem cell transplants for the thousands of patients each year who need them and cannot currently get them from the ‘walking donor’ bone marrow registries," Coelho added.

With 150,000 units, it is estimated that 90 percent of patients needing a transplant would find a suitable match. About 1,300 cord blood stem cell transplants have been successfully performed in the United States.

Steven Sprague, 57, says cord blood treatments are not theory.

"Cord blood is not research," said Sprague, of New York, told Scripps Howard. "It is not dreams, or wishful thinking. Cord blood has been proven to work in patients for many years, seven years ago for me. That’s why it is so urgent that this particular legislation gets passed quickly."

Related web sites:
ThermoGenesis Corp –