HRSA to allocate $14M to public umbilical cord blood banks

HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration plans to allocate $14 million to public umbilical cord blood banks nationwide in an effort to increase the supply of cord blood from 50,000 to 150,000 units, the AP/Washington Post reports.

HRSA also recently awarded about $10 million in contracts to coordinate cord donations and monitor the outcome of transplants (Freking, AP/Washington Post, 10/16).

The funding is the result of a bill (HR 596) passed last year that provides $79 million to collect umbilical cords for stem cell research.

The measure -- sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who opposes embryonic stem cell research -- established and authorized funding for an umbilical cord blood bank network for the purpose of stem cell research and treatment of diseases.

Umbilical cord blood contains hematopoeitic progenitor cells -- the same kind of stem cells found in adult bone marrow -- that could be used to treat patients with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and several other diseases.

However, the majority of parents of the approximately four million infants born each year in the U.S. choose not to store umbilical cord blood to harvest stem cells, and the blood is discarded.

According to an Institute of Medicine report released in April 2005, stem cells extracted from umbilical cord blood could provide treatment for about 11,700 people annually in the U.S., but about 100,000 more public donations of such blood must be made over the next few years to build an adequate national supply (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 5/24/05).

According to the AP/Post, HRSA has allocated funds to the Minneapolis-based National Marrow Donor Program to develop an information center for umbilical cord donations, which aims to allow physicians to call in to find the best match for a patient.

In addition, the agency awarded a $6 million contract to the Medical College of Wisconsin to analyze the outcomes of blood stem cell transplants, the AP/Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 10/16).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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