03.22.07

Burr Introduces Legislation to Bank Amniotic and Placental Stem Cells

Research in North Carolina shows promise in using amniotic fluid and placentas to collect stem cells

Washington, D.C. - Today Senator Richard Burr introduced The Amniotic Fluid and Placental Stem Cell Banking Bill of 2007. Burr's legislation sets up a network of banks to store amniotic fluid and placental cells under the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program. New research shows that a small number of stem cells in amniotic fluid and the placenta can give rise to many of the specialized cell types found in the human body. Under the bill, the Secretary of Health and Human Services would contract with qualified amniotic fluid and placental stem cell banks to create and maintain a national inventory of 100,000 new high-quality amniotic fluid and placental stem cell units. The legislation authorizes $20 million annually to establish the banks.

"New research conducted in North Carolina shows benefits to collecting stem cells from amniotic fluid and placentas that might later be used for medical research and treatment of disease. We should do what we can to ensure this potentially life-saving material is saved for future use," Burr said.

Dr. Anthony Atala, M.D., senior researcher and director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and his colleagues have received national attention for finding stem cells in amniotic fluid and placentas that can give rise to many of the specialized cell types found in the human body. The researchers believe these new stem cells may represent an intermediate stage between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Researchers have already used these cells to repopulate neural tissue in mouse brains and grow bone, liver, and muscle. Amniotic fluid and placental stem cells are collected after a routine diagnostic amniocentesis or placental sampling or from discarded amniotic fluid and placenta after birth. These methods are the only two ways to collect these particular stem cells.

"Dr. Atala and his colleagues at Wake Forest have done great work toward finding potential cures through the use of amniotic and placental stem cells. Their dedication to medical research demonstrates why the United States remains the world leader in medical breakthroughs," Burr added.

"With amniotic fluid and placental stem cells, one may be able to obtain the same medical benefits - and cure the same diseases - without the risks or controversy associated with other stem cells. I think this work represents a giant step forward for stem cell research. It is just what the doctor ordered - stem cells with a low risk of tumorigencity that can be grown into replacement tissues quickly and easily. Since these cells can be obtained so easily, it makes it far more feasible to create a stem cell bank to match patients," said Robert Lanza, Vice President of Research and Scientific Development for Advanced Cell Technology in Wocester, Massachusetts.

This Act expands the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program which was enacted in December 2005 and was co-sponsored by Burr. The program provided grant funding to establish a network of cord blood banks; set up a single point of access for physicians and patients to search for marrow and cord blood; established a patient advocacy office; expanded the stem cell therapeutics outcomes database; and placed the National Marrow Donor Program under the program.

"The use of stem cells is promising for both research and therapy," Dr. Anthony Atala said. "A national bank registry will make stem cells readily available from a wide variety of individuals which will help scientists gain more knowledge about cell biology and hopefully accelerate the use of these cells for therapy."

Burr serves on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in the U.S. Senate.

For more information go to https://www.burr.senate.gov

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