Conservative and right-to-life groups contacted Wednesday embrace the advancement of a bill in the state House to establish a public bank of umbilical cord blood that could be used for transplants and stem-cell research.
“We do support stem-cell research but not embryonic (stem-cell research) where a life has to be destroyed to get the stem cells,” said Rose Mimms, executive director of the Arkansas Right-to-Life organization.
The national controversy over stem cells largely has focused on embryonic stem cells, which can be derived from unborn embryos. Often overlooked in the debate is the fact that other types of stem cells can be obtained in other ways.
Dr. Ron Johnson, a genetics professor at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, said stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood are less versatile than embryonic stem cells.
“It’s obviously the least controversial” source for stem cells, he said.
The potentials and limits of stem cells still are being researched, but embryonic stem cells in mice have been found to have the capability to form any kind of mouse tissue.
Stem cells are touted as potential cures for any disease or injury where there is tissue degeneration or damage, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy and liver disease, according to the International Society for Stem Cell Research.
Though umbilical cord blood might not be the favored source of stem cells for scientists, it is one that many conservative groups do not oppose.
House Bill 2416, An Act to Create the Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Bank for Postnatal Tissue and Fluid, was filed by state Rep. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, on March 2.
Tuesday, the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor endorsed the bill, which may be voted on by the full House later this week.
Focus on the Family, the group founded by popular evangelical leader Dr. James Dobson, supports the bill, said spokesperson Carrie Gordon Earll.
Earll said that by creating a public bank for umbilical cord blood, the bill could provide medical treatment for all who need it.
Another supporter was Karen Davis, president of Baxter County Right-to-Life.
“There are no ethical problems with umbilical cord blood,” Davis said.
Bulletin Staff Writer