March 21, 2011
Canada has approved $48 million to start a national umbilical cord blood bank, expected to start functioning in 2013. Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of adult stem cells similar to those from bone marrow, and has been used in place of bone marrow adult stem cells for life-saving transplants.
The announcement was by provincial and territorial health ministers, who said that the national plan will be implemented over eight years. It aims to bank 20,000 cord blood units, and will include two accredited cord blood stem cell labs and a collections network across Canada. Canadian Blood Services (CBS) will develop and manage the national cord blood bank. Quebec runs its own cord blood banking program through Hema-Quebec.
The U.S. has previously put taxpayer money into public cord blood banking. The Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ), was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in December 2005 as Public Law 109-129. The Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2010, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT), renewed funding and became Public Law 111-264 in October 2010. The U.S. government provides some general information about cord blood donation and options. Besides the option of public cord blood banks (and there are state and regional banks in the U.S.), there are also various private (or family) cord blood banks.
Besides the increasing use of cord blood adult stem cells for treatment of leukemias and meeting minority needs, cord blood stem cells have been used for treatment of anemias, including sickle cell anemia, and are being tested for use in treating traumatic brain injuries, a fatal genetic skin disease, and in a trial to treat cerebral palsy, just to name a few of the newer applications being developed.
More lives are being saved, by preserving the lifesaving adult stem cells from cord blood.