Senate Committee Approves Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Research Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 29, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Committee Approves Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Research Bill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 29, 2005

Washington, DC ( — A Senate committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would promote the use of adult stem cells obtained from umbilical cord blood. The bill is the pro-life alternative to a measure seeking to use taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) committee backed S. 1317 on a voice vote.

The measure encourages the collection of umbilical cord blood and establishes a national database to help doctors and scientists access the stem cells in it for research.

The committee combined the original Senate bill (S. 681) dealing with cord blood research with a more expansive House bill that also promotes adult stem cells from bone marrow. The House approved its measure, HR 2520, on a 434-1 vote in May.

At the same time, the House signed off on legislation that would use taxpayer funds to pay for unproven embryonic stem cell research. The Senate is expected to take up that bill later this summer.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who also backs embryonic stem cell research, said Senate leaders have worked out a final version of the adult stem cell bill with House officials. He told Congressional Quarterly he expected the House to approve it once the Senate votes on the bill.

President Bush opposes using taxpayer funds for any new embryonic stem cell research and prefers the adult stem cell legislation.

"Cord-blood stem cells, collected from the placenta and umbilical cord after birth without doing harm to mother or child, have been used in the treatment of thousands of patients suffering from more than 60 different diseases," President Bush said in a statement supporting the measure.

Phil Coelho is CEO and Chairman of the Board of Thermogenesis Corp., which provides cord blood stem cell processing and cryopreservation systems used by major cord blood stem cell banks.

He says that adult stem cells have "been used clinically about 30,000 times."

Cord blood cells "have some dramatic advantages," Coelho says.

"[T]hey can become several — and perhaps all — the different tissue types; they involve no donor risks; they have the capacity for many cell divisions; and they cause less graft versus host disease," he explained.