Senate committee approves bill about information on umbilical cord blood

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 | 6:58 p.m. CDT; updated 7:38 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 19, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate Health Committee approved a bill on Tuesday that would require the Missouri Health Department to share information about umbilical cord blood banking with pregnant women.

Stem cells from umbilical cord blood “can be used to treat almost 80 diseases, including different forms of leukemia, bone-marrow failure syndromes and sick-cell anemia,” according to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Tishaura Jones, D-St Louis City.

She told the Senate committee a personal story about donating cord blood after giving birth to a son.

“Missouri is home to one of the best cord blood banks, and I donated my son’s cord blood there,” she added, referring to the St. Louis cord blood bank on the campus of SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center.

Jones introduced Darlene Davis from Texas who told the committee that stem cells from cord blood stored from the birth of her second child cured her first child, who suffered from sickle cell anemia.

“My son Joseph was in and out of the hospital from 8 months to 3 years old 20 times,” Davis said. She narrated how devastating it was for her to hear that the disease was not curable.

A physician, however, told her she could save her second baby’s cord blood for transplant.

“The doctor informed me about this and that was the blessing," Davis said. "If that cord blood got thrown away, there’s no way my son’d be standing here today, 11 years old."

Cord blood is usually collected within 10 minutes of giving birth, after the umbilical cord has been cut. It can be used in transplants, especially among relatives. Cord blood transplants from family members have been shown to be twice as effective as transplants from non-relatives, Jones said.

Jones said that worldwide more than 600,000 women have made cord blood donations.

There are both private and public options for banking cord blood. While the private sector cost averages about $2,500, Jones said, public banking is free.

Ann Langer from Cord Blood Registry in California, the world’s largest private cord blood bank, stressed the necessity of informing future mothers about the option prior to their third trimester.

“If you have children with leukemia or sickle cell, you can get a free program, but you need to get a doctor’s letter to say they definitely have that disease, and it takes a month to do that,” Langer explained.

She told the committee she believed the bill was going to save not only lives but also state funds.

“It moves the needle from costly long-term care to preventive medicine and cures,” Langer said.

The legislation before the committee would encourage obstetricians to provide patients with cord blood information prior to their third trimester of pregnancy.

There was no opposition to the proposal. Although anti-abortion groups have fought against some forms of stem-cell research, they have embraced the cord-blood proposal.

Representatives from the Missouri Catholic Conference and from Campaign Life Missouri voiced support for the proposal.

The committee passed the bill by a unanimous vote, sending it to the full Senate.

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