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Public Statements

Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


STEM CELL THERAPEUTIC AND RESEARCH ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - May 24, 2005)

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend for yielding and for his leadership on this bill and for cosponsoring it, along with the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Davis) on the other side of the aisle for his leadership over the last 3 years as we crafted this legislation. It is finally on the floor after almost 3 years of work; and again I thank my friend, the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Davis) for his leadership.

One of the best kept secrets in America today is that umbilical cord-blood stem cells and adult stem cells are curing people of a myriad of terrible conditions and diseases. One of the greatest hopes that I have is that these current-day miracles, denied to many because of an insufficient inventory and inefficient means of matching cord-blood stem cells with patients, will now become available to tens of thousands of patients as a direct result of the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005, H.R. 2520.

Amazingly, we are on the threshold of systematically turning medical waste, umbilical cords and placentas, into medical miracles for huge numbers of very sick and terminally ill patients who suffer from such maladies as leukemia and sickle cell anemia. And because this legislation promotes cord-blood research as well, we can expect new and expanded uses of these very versatile stem cells.

For the first time ever, our bill establishes a nationwide stem cell transplantation system. It also authorizes the national bone marrow transplant system and combines both under a new program, providing an easy, single-access point for information for doctors and patients and for the purpose of collecting and analyzing outcomes data.

The new program created in our legislation is named for our distinguished colleague, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Young), because of all of his great work on bone marrow transplantation over the last 2 decades.

Mr. Speaker, cord-blood stem cells are already treating and curing patients. Unlike embryonic stem cell research that has not cured one person, cord-blood stem cells are treating patients. The New York Blood Center, for example, has treated thousands of patients with more than 65 different diseases, including sickle cell disease, leukemia and osteoporosis.

Some of those patients came and told their stories yesterday at a press conference, and they are in the gallery watching this debate right now. One of those men, a young man named Keonne Penn was here to tell his story of how he was cured of sickle cell anemia, and he said, ``If it wasn't for cord-blood stem cells, I would probably be dead by now. It is a good thing I found a match. It saved my life.''

Stephen Sprague, another man who was cured of leukemia, said he too was lucky to find a cord-blood match. And 22-year-old Jaclyn Albanese, who just graduated from Rutgers University from my State, said, ``If the New York blood center had not been there, I do not know what kind of shape I would be in.'' She is thankful as well.

Mr. Speaker, I say to my colleagues, cord-blood has also been used to treat Hurler's disease and Krabbe's disease, both neurological conditions, which blows away the idea that cord-blood stem cells are limited in the potential and the capacity to turn into other kinds of cells. That is not too surprising, I say to my colleagues, when you simply read the published literature on the flexibility of cord-blood stem cells.

According to a July 2004 study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, a research group led by Dr. Kogler found ``a new human somatic stem cell from placental cord-blood with intrinsic pluripotent differential potential,'' which means it can become any type of cell in the body. In addition, they found that the cells could expand to 10 quadrillion, or 10 to the power of 15, cells before losing any pluripotent abilities.

And cord-blood stem cells are not only ahead in treating real human patients, they are also able to turn into different kinds of cells for research. One company has already turned cord-blood stem cells into representatives of three germinal layers, including neural stem cells, nerve stem cells, liver/pancreas precursors, skeletal muscle, fat cells, bone cells and blood vessels.

Last month, Celgene Corporation announced that cord-blood cells ``are `pluripotent', or have the ability to become different types of tissue.'' So we are just on the beginning of realizing the vast potential of what was formerly medical waste and has now been turned into these medical miracles.

Let me just say to my colleagues that this idea that research on bone marrow and cord-blood stem cells has been researched on for decades and that embryo stem cells have only been researched for a short time is ludicrous and an unfair attack on cord-blood stem cell research. During the entire period where research has been happening in this area of regenerative medicine, the idea that cells can change types and repair organs, both adult and embryo cells have been around in animals. And, again, great progress has been made in the cord-blood and the adult stem cell. My bill needs to be passed.

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I just want to make the point that some misinformation perhaps inadvertently is being spread on this floor, that these stem cells that are derived from cord blood only have a blood application. That is unmitigated nonsense. It is not true. And I pointed out in my opening comments that in the Celgene Cellular Therapeutics first reported back in 2001 that placental stem cells turned into nerve, blood, cartilage, skin and muscle cells, and that since that time other studies have confirmed cord blood's pluripotent capability. Surely there needs to be further research.

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