Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oklahoma Senate Takes First Step to Cord Blood Bank

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate approved an amendment today that could ultimately give Oklahoma families a way to preserve umbilical cord blood and the life-saving adult stem cells in it.

Senator Jay Paul Gumm submitted the amendment to Senate Bill 1708, a measure by Senate Co-President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee on organ donations. The amendment and the bill were both passed with bipartisan majorities.

Gumm’s amendment would direct the state Commissioner of Health to request information from one or more umbilical cord banks to determine whether the banks would or could establish a public cord blood collection operation in Oklahoma. The Commissioner would report back to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2009 on the best way to develop partnerships.

“This is a way for us to give Oklahoma families a chance to bank umbilical cord blood without the huge startup costs,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant. “In a tight budget year, this will ‘kick start’ the process of giving Oklahomans affordable access to potentially life-saving procedures.”

Cord blood is often discarded as medical waste in the delivery room, but can have extraordinary medical applications. Adult stem cells found in cord blood can treat a variety of ailments, including cancer, leukemia, blood, and immune disorders.

The lawmaker noted a story broadcast on NBC-TV’s Today Show Tuesday that told of a two-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who is now showing fewer signs of the disorder since an infusion of his own stem cells. The boy’s parents saved his cord blood. Gumm said every Oklahoma family should have the same opportunity.

“It is very expensive to preserve cord blood,” he concluded. “By establishing a partnership like we have proposed, we can give every Oklahoma family the same opportunity this family had. You cannot put a price tag on that.”

This is the second year Gumm has passed cord blood legislation out of the Senate. Last year, a cord blood bank bill sailed through the Senate only to stall in the House of Representatives.

“I believe we have a moral obligation to make a public cord blood bank available to Oklahoma families,” Gumm said. “There is no greater responsibility we have than to save lives and improve life for those we can; making a public cord blood bank available to Oklahoma families is a huge step in that direction.”

The amended bill will next be considered by a House of Representatives committee.

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