With a unanimous vote, the Oklahoma Senate gave its final approval Tuesday to a bill that would establish a public umbilical cord blood bank in Oklahoma.
House Bill 3060 – written by Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, and Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City – would give Oklahoma families a way to donate umbilical cord blood. The blood is often discarded as medical waste following the birth of a healthy baby, but is rich in adult stem cells that can be used to treat a variety of ailments.
“I believe umbilical cord blood will be the next great medical success story,” Gumm said. “We have a responsibility to see that Oklahoma families have access to life-improving and life-saving therapies available from cord blood. This bill is a critical first step in that effort.”
Umbilical cord blood currently is used to treat cancer, leukemia and immune disorders. Researchers believe they can be used to treat many other ailments, as well.
Currently, an expensive private cord blood bank is the only option Oklahoma families have to preserve umbilical cord blood. The cost – well into the thousands of dollars – is far beyond the reach of most new parents.
“It is very expensive to preserve cord blood,” he said. “The partnerships we have proposed in our bill can give every Oklahoma family the opportunity to bank cord blood. This is about saving and improving lives, and it is good investment for the state and private donors to make.”
HB 3060 directs the state Health Department to create the cord blood bank, subject to the availability of money appropriated by the Legislature or given by private donors. In addition, doctors and hospitals treating pregnant women would be required to educate their patients about banking cord blood.
The measure also directs the state Health Commissioner to contact existing cord blood banks about the potential for establishing a collection site in Oklahoma. After gathering the information, the commissioner would report to lawmakers in 2009.
Gumm said the potential for umbilical cord blood is amazing. Recently, several network morning news shows reported the story of a two-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. After an infusion of his own stem cells during a clinical trial at Duke University, he is now showing fewer signs of the disorder; his parents had banked his umbilical cord blood.
“Every Oklahoma family deserves that same chance, and a public cord blood bank will provide that,” Gumm concluded. “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 bill was returned to the House of Representatives for consideration of Senate amendments. If the House approves the amendments, the bill will be sent to Gov. Brad Henry for his signature.
For more information contact: Senator Gumm's Office: (405) 521-5586