06.29.05

Burr Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Cord Blood Stem Cell Bill Approved by Senate Committee

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee today approved bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Richard Burr to establish a public network of human umbilical cord blood stem cell banks that would store cord blood units for the treatment of diseases such as leukemia, sickle cell anemia and AIDS, and to reauthorize the National Marrow Donor Program. In addition to Burr, the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act is co-sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI) and John Ensign (R-NV).

"This important legislation will give us new tools to treat and prevent a wide range of diseases, especially those that affect children," said Burr. "I'm proud that many of the developments in cord blood transplants have taken place in North Carolina. The work done at Duke University Medical Center will benefit patients throughout the state and the nation."

The legislation calls for the collection and maintenance of 150,000 units of cord blood, mandates a single electronic database matching cord blood units and bone marrow donors, encourages cord blood donations from a genetically diverse group and ensures cord blood units will be made available for research. As part of the legislation, qualified cord blood banks have the option of providing free collection and storage of cord blood units for families with an ill child or parent who could be treated with a cord blood transplant.

Valuable research on cord blood is being done in North Carolina. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg of Duke University, the Director of the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, and the Carolinas Blood Bank are leading the fight on diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's. Dr. Kurtzberg and her team are pioneers in the field, having already performed more than 600 cord blood transplants with unrelated donors - more than anyone else in the world. In addition, the first recipient of a cord blood transplant is from North Carolina.