by Steven Ertelt
November 3, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The Bush administration on Thursday awarded over $12 million in contracts to stem cell banks that store umbilical cord blood to obtain adult stem cells for research. The Department of Health and Human Services provided contracts for six institutions to expand their inventory and create a diverse national holding of cells.
This announcement follows the late September announcement of an additional $10 million to build and connect these banks into a National Inventory of Cord Blood – accessible to any physician across the country for transplant use.
The contracts are a result of the Stem Cell Research and Therapeutic Act of 2005 which Congress overwhelmingly approved in December as an alternative to forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research, which destroys human life.
The bill authorized a total of $265 million from 2007-2010 to stock cord blood cells and bone marrow cells, both of which have already been used to help patients, unlike embryonic stem cells.
Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican and the leader of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, was the primary sponsor of the adult stem cell research bill.
"These contracts will allow us to turn medical waste into medical miracles for huge numbers of very sick and terminally ill patients, who suffer from such maladies as leukemia and sickle cell anemia," Smith said.
Smith said hospitals have previously been throwing millions of umbilical cords rich with cord blood away each year because the infrastructure required to properly collect and store them was not available.
The banks will use the funding toward the goal of collecting 150,000 new genetically diverse units of cord blood, a goal that is intended to meet the needs of 90 percent of patients-both child and adult-and make the unites available to a patient within one week (or 24 hours in emergency cases).
All blood units collected and deemed not suitable for transplant will be donated for research. Cord blood stem cells have the potential to grow into other types of cells and reproduce in a Petri dish which makes them valuable for research into diseases that are not blood-related, such as Parkinson’s and diabetes.
"Cord blood stem cells have incredible and immediate live-saving potential through treatments, but also the capacity to lead to long-term scientific advancements through research. To date, adult stem cells, like those in umbilical cord blood, are the only stem cells to have ever produced medical treatments. The funding announced today is vital to advancing and promoting good and ethical science through the use of adult stem cells," Smith said.
The blood bank contracts follow on the heels of the release of federal funding to create the National Cord Blood Inventory, which will coordinate the nation’s supply of umbilical cord blood stem cells and bone marrow into an easy, single-access point of information for doctors and patients to search for a match in banks around the nation.
"Thousands of people have been successfully treated with cord blood stem cells for over 67 diseases, many of which were once considered terminal," Smith explained.
"This infusion of federal funds is helping to make a medical miracle available to thousands more and will ensure that research continues so that this source of stem cells can treat many other debilitating and deadly diseases," Smith said.