Cord blood promises life

A state Senate bill calls for a program to educate expecting parents on the benefits of donating umbilical cord blood to stem cell research.

MORE PARENTS might decide to donate the stem cells from their babies’ umbilical cord blood if they knew the procedure was free, easy and could save lives.

That’s the aim of state Senate Bill 148, which would establish a statewide education and awareness program.

Without the bill’s passage, most of the cord blood from babies born in Georgia will continue to be treated as medical waste, instead of the building blocks of a potential medical miracle.

That’s the wrong way for Georgia, and the wrong way for medical research, to go. Senate Bill 148 deserves passage.

Dubbed the “Saving the Cure Act,” the legislation notes that stem cell research in general has been hampered by the ethical controversy over embryonic stem cells which are presently derived in a process resulting in the destruction of the human embryo.

However, the umbilical cord, placenta and amniotic fluid are rich in stem cells which may be used for scientific research and medical treatment without destroying human life at any stage of development.

Bill sponsor David Shafer, R-Duluth, further points out that this non-controversial source of stem cells has already resulted in treatments for anemia, leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell disease.

These post-natal stem cells are also the focus of clinical trials on treatments for Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn´s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and spinal cord injury.

Further study indicates possible uses for cord blood stem cells in diseases ranging from corneal degeneration, to heart disease, stroke and Parkinson´s disease.

These are debilitating, painful diseases, but there is hope for a cure through stem cells, provided sufficient stem cell lines for study.

Doctors express a high degree of confidence when it comes to stem cell potential.

“The use of umbilical cord blood stem cells in the treatment of disease is one of the most prominent advancements in medicine today,” said Dr. Roger Markwald, professor of cell biology at the Medical University of South Carolina. “Developments in this field will revolutionize medicine and disease treatment.”

Currently a scarce commodity, a push for stem cell donation would make more of the material available to today’s patients, and to more researchers, increasing the chances of a future breakthrough.

In order to encourage increased donation, the act calls for establishing a 15-member Saving the Cure Commission by June 30, 2008. The commission would work in partnership with hospitals, universities, nonprofit organizations and private industries doing stem cell research.

The commission would also oversee the development of the Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Bank to store stem cells donated by Georgia parents. Besides the blood bank, the commission would be charged with building an education program informing parents about public donation or private storage of their newborn’s umbilical cord blood.

Doctors and hospitals would be required to join that effort by June 30, 2009, informing patients of their options.

The effort would be funded, at least in part, through donations made by individuals on state income tax forms.

Arizona has already enacted similar legislation requiring doctors to ask parents whether they want to store, donate or discard cord blood.

Tom Moore, CEO and founder of the private Cord Blood Registry based in Tucson, Ariz., said that as parents learn about blood storage, more are willing to do it.

However, public donation, which is free, should not be confused with private storage of cord blood for family use. CBR charges about $2,000 for the initial blood collection, plus $125 a year for storage. Experts suggest that private storage is only necessary if a newborn’s siblings have a history of cancer or blood disease.

By Savannah
Morning News

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