The picture of health, Tony Wagner plays soccer, hockey and golf and is, in the words of his father, “just as obnoxious as a 12-year-old boy can be.”

And he scarcely remembers anything from his life-threatening bout with leukemia seven years ago, and nothing at all from his life-saving transplant of hematopoietic progenitor cells, derived from the blood found in umbilical cords.

“He’s living proof cord blood transplants save people’s lives,” said dad Mike Wagner of Chili.

Parents can go through private blood banks now to save umbilical cord blood in case their own children in the future develop some disorder, but it can be a costly proposition. Fees typically range from $1,000 to $1,800 per child, with a likely annual storage fee of about $100.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer has been touring New York in recent weeks, pushing federal legislation that would create a national infrastructure of saving and storing umbilical cord blood for the stem cells found there — cells that could be used to treat a host of blood diseases.

The bill - already passed by the House of Representatives and now before the Senate - would have the federal government pay for collection and storage of umbilical blood as well as set up national standards and a directory of the stem cells being stored, all at a cost of about $200 million a year. The cord blood would be saved at already-existing blood banks. The government, meanwhile, could save three times that by eliminating the costs of bone marrow transplants, Schumer said.

The end results would be that parents can have their childs cord blood saved as insurance against future illness without incurring financial burden.

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