100,000 Donations of Umbilical Cord Blood Needed Over Next Few Years, IOM Says
Stem cells extracted from blood collected from a newborn's umbilical cord could provide treatment for about 11,700 people annually in the United States, but about 100,000 more public donations of such blood must be made over the next few years to build an adequate national supply, according to an Institute of Medicine report released on Thursday, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (Neergaard, AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/15).
Umbilical cord blood contains hematopoeitic progenitor cells -- the same kind of stem cells found in adult bone marrow -- and could be used to treat patients with diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and several other illnesses, according to an IOM release (IOM release, 4/14). Currently, the "vast majority" of parents of the approximately four million infants born each year in the United States do not choose to harvest the stem cells and the blood is thrown away, the AP/Newsday reports. However, private cord blood banking -- in which parents choose to pay a "hefty fee" to have their infant's stem cells harvested and stored in case a family member ever needs a stem cell transplant -- is a "booming industry," according to the AP/Newsday.
Although private donation is "heavily advertised" on television, at OB/GYN offices, in magazines and on pregnancy-related Web sites, few parents know that they can have their infant's stem cells harvested and stored at no cost for use by the general public, the AP/Newsday reports (AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/15). Congress in 2004 appropriated $10 million to establish a National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank Program and asked IOM to "come up with a plan for getting it off the ground," the Wall Street Journal reports.
Lawmakers currently are considering legislation (HR 596, S 681) -- known as the Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2005 -- that would establish and authorize funding for an umbilical cord blood bank network, according to the Journal.
The IOM report recommends that HHS set up a national center to coordinate the activities of both private and public umbilical cord blood banks and establish quality standards for umbilical cord blood (Dumcius, Wall Street Journal, 4/15). It also recommends that FDA license cord-blood units and create federal quality standards that cord blood banking facilities would have to meet to be accredited.
The report also recommends that U.S. lawmakers create policies to ensure pregnant women fully understand their options for cord blood banking and consent to such donation (AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/15). The report also recommends further study comparing the health of patients who receive cells taken from cord blood and those who receive bone marrow cells, Bloomberg/Washington Post reports (Bloomberg/Washington Post, 4/15).
"The lack of centralized organization, universal quality standards and uniform matching mechanisms makes it more difficult than it has to be for physicians to provide patients with suitable cells in a timely way," Kristine Gebbie, director of the Center for Health Policy at Columbia University and lead author of the report, said, adding, "The structure we are recommending for a national cord blood banking program would assure that patients receive high-quality therapeutic cells in the most timely, ethical and cost-effective manner possible" (IOM release, 4/14).
Dr. Robert Jones, president and CEO of the New York Blood Center in New York City, said, "The report will be a major factor in convincing Congress of the importance of cord blood as a viable treatment for patients in need of a transplant. We are hopeful that Congress will move forward with the passage of the Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2005, which will help save the lives of thousands that die needlessly each year" (NYBC release, 4/14).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Thursday reported on the IOM report. The segment includes comments from Gebbie and John Wagner, a pediatrician and scientific director of clinical research at the University of Minnesota's Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program and Stem Cell Institute (Neighmond, "All Things Considered," NPR, 4/14). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.