By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — In a bipartisan vote Sept. 8, the House passed legislation to reauthorize the bone marrow and cord-blood donor registry programs in the United States, ensuring that the treatment and therapies derived from adult stem-cell lines will not expire at the end of the federal fiscal year.
The legislation, Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2015, was sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey.
Under the legislation, a cell transplantation program will be authorized for five years at $30 million annually and the national cord-blood inventory also will continue for five years at $23 million annually.
"Breathtaking scientific breakthroughs have turned medical waste — post-birth placentas and umbilical cord blood — into medical miracles treating more than 70 diseases including leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia," Smith told members of Congress before the vote.
The Senate must now to take up the House bill before a Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government.
The legislation, first passed in 2005, established a nationwide integrated bone marrow and cord-blood stem-cell transplantation program. Stem cells
derived from cord blood and bone marrow have been used successfully to treat tens of thousands of patients with various diseases.
According to Smith, the reauthorization of this legislation will allow donor networks to continue and give more people access to lifesaving treatments. He said such programs are a success because of the adult donors willing to provide bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells and mothers who donate their babies’ cord blood through public cord blood banks.
Smith said the bill will "ensure that thousands of present-day and future patients benefit from the exciting field of regenerative medicine."
At a House hearing on the bill earlier this summer, Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, said that she and others are developing uses for cord blood to treat acquired brain disorders.
The bill has the support of the National Marrow Donor Program, the Cord Blood Association and the Roberston Clinical and Translational Cell Therapy program at Duke University.
The Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, estimates that every year about 12,600 people depend on the programs made available by this law to find an unrelated adult marrow donor or cord-blood unit for treatment.
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