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Smith: Federal Funds for Cord Blood Banking, Stem Cell Research Will Save Lives

Location: Washington, DC

Smith: Federal Funds for Cord Blood Banking, Stem Cell Research Will Save Lives

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)-the author of the landmark law to expand ethical and effective stem cell treatment and research-today announced the awarding of over $12 million in federal contracts to procure and store the nation's supply of umbilical cord blood, making life-saving stem cells available to treat more than 67 diseases including leukemia and sickle cell anemia, as well as for research into further medical advancements.

"These contracts will allow us to turn medical waste into medical miracles for huge numbers of very sick and terminally ill patients, who suffer from such maladies as leukemia and sickle cell anemia," Smith said.

Umbilical cords are a rich, non-controversial source of stem cells. Hospitals have previously been throwing millions of them away each year because the infrastructure required to properly collect and store them was not available. The law Smith authored, the "Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-129), authorized the federal funds just released which will give the medical community the ability to salvage and utilize the stem cells from umbilical cords to save lives.

The contracts, the first of their kind, were awarded to six different entities, including the Milstein National Cord Blood Program at the New York Blood Center, the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank at Duke University Medical Center and the University of Colorado Cord Blood Bank. The banks will use the funding toward the goal of collecting 150,000 new genetically-diverse units of cord blood, a goal that is intended to meet the needs of 90% of patients-both child and adult-and make the unites available to a patient within one week (or 24 hours in emergency cases).

All blood units collected and deemed not suitable for transplant will be donated for research. Cord blood stem cells have the potential to grow into other types of cells and reproduce in a Petri dish which makes them valuable for research into diseases that are not blood-related, such as Parkinson's and diabetes.

"Cord blood stem cells have incredible and immediate live-saving potential through treatments, but also the capacity to lead to long-term scientific advancements through research. To date, adult stem cells, like those in umbilical cord blood, are the only stem cells to have ever produced medical treatments. The funding announced today is vital to advancing and promoting good and ethical science through the use of adult stem cells," Smith said.

The blood bank contracts follow on the heels of the release of federal funding to create the National Cord Blood Inventory, which will coordinate the nation's supply of umbilical cord blood stem cells and bone marrow into an easy, single-access point of information for doctors and patients to search for a match in banks around the nation.

"Thousands of people have been successfully treated with cord blood stem cells for over 67 diseases, many of which were once considered terminal. This infusion of federal funds is helping to make a medical miracle available to thousands more and will ensure that research continues so that this source of stem cells can treat many other debilitating and deadly diseases," Smith said.

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