Law requires umbilical cord banking information available for mothers.
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Law requires umbilical cord banking information available for mothers.

Date: April 19, 2011
By: Martin Kramara
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 197

JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate Health Committee approved Tuesday a bill that would require the Missouri Health Department to publicize information about umbilical cord blood banking after hearing personal stories from donors.

Stem cells from umbilical cord blood “can be used to treat almost 80 diseases, including different forms of leukemia, bone-marrow failure syndromes and sickle-cell anemia,” the bill's sponsor - Rep. Tishaura Jones, D-St Louis - who told the Senate committee how she donated cord blood after giving birth.

“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 Cardinal Glennon children’s hospital.

Jones presented Darleene Davis from the state of Texas who told the committee that stem cells from cord blood stored from the birth of her second child cured her first child suffering from sickle cell anemia.

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

One of the physicians, 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. If that cord blood got thrown away, there’s no way my son’d be standing here today, eleven years old,” she said.

Cord blood is usually collected within ten minutes of giving birth, after the umbilical cord has been cut. It can be used in transplants, especially to 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 is both private and public option of banking the cord blood. While the private sector cost averages about $2,500, public banking is free, Jones said.

Ann Langer from Cord Blood Registry, the world’s largest private cord blood bank based in California, 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 money. “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 embraced the cord-blood proposal.

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

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

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