By Peter J. Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 1, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Hope for future therapies and cures from stem cell research got a big boost Thursday, when the U.S. House of Representatives voted to renew funding for non-controversial work in stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood over the next five years.
The House reauthorized the “Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act,” authored by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith in 2005, with a unanimous voice vote. “The Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2010” now extends the program’s life through 2015.
Since the Senate approved reauthorization last week, the bill will now go to President Barack Obama for signing.
The bill authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to appropriate $23 million every year between fiscal years (FY) 2011- 2014 and $20 million in FY 2015 for the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI). The HHS Secretary also may appropriate $30 million every year for FY 2011-2014, and $33 million for FY 2015 for the Bone Marrow Transplant program.
The funding will support studies, programs, and projects related to cord blood donation, such as developing new technologies and approaches, expanding collection sites, forming long-lasting relationships between cord blood banks and birthing hospitals, and establishing a genetic diversity of cord blood units with the NCBI.
The reauthorization bill also includes an amendment that removes the 150,000 cap on cord blood units that could be made available for transplant.
Smith on the House floor said the law created a “nationwide umbilical cord blood stem cell program designed to collect, derive, type and freeze cord blood units” that would be used both for treatment of patients and provide stem cells for research.
The Congressman added that umbilical cord blood, once considered medical waste, is now on the “cutting edge of science” for treating leukemia, other cancers, cerebral palsy, lupus, spinal cord injuries, sickle-cell anemia and other diseases.
The new bill is a big boost to researchers in cord blood compared with the original program. Under the 2005 law, funding for Smith’s cord blood program began at $4 million in FY2008, growing to $12 million in 2010, and will reach $14 million in 2011.
Since the cord blood program was established, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has contracted with 12 cord blood banks to collect, store, and provide units of cord blood to doctors, patients and researchers.
While the goal of collecting and maintaining a collection of 150,000 units of genetically diverse cord blood has not yet been met, the extension of time and money should put them closer to meeting that goal.
Stem cell treatments derived from umbilical cord blood have yielded enormous successes, vastly expanding the frontiers of medical science and providing tangible hope in the fight against what were once considered incurable diseases.
One famous case involved a two year-old girl from Suffolk, England, who was cured of a rare form of cancer in 2007 using genetically matched stem cells from a frozen Japanese umbilical cord. Sorrel Mason was suffering from acute myeloid leukemia, and given a 30 percent chance of survival. With the stem cell treatment given by Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, a leader in extending donor stem cell pools and one of the best centers for stem cell transplants in Europe, Mason made a full recovery. She was reported cancer free in 2008 and again in 2009.
Pro-life advocates point out that, meanwhile, embryonic stem cell research has yet to provide the medical community with any treatments.
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