The US Senate is highly expected to pass legislation to provide $79 million in funding over the next five years to establish and maintain a National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank Network, after legislation was passed by Congress in May by a vote of 430 to 1.

The Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 is strongly supported by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), which represents 14 of the public cord blood banks. The legislation follows the recommendations of a Congress-commissioned report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) which found that about 11,700 people in the United States could benefit from hematopoietic progenitor cell (HPC) transplantation each year, but only 1,700 patients currently receive a cord blood stem cell transplant.

Cord blood stem cell transplants have saved the lives of 20,000 Americans suffering from conditions including leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and other genetic disorders, but inadequate collection of umbilical cord blood means that thousands of patients die every year waiting for a match. The IOM report states that the median time for locating an HLA match is now more than four months, but others say that finding a match may happen almost instantaneously or never because there is no national system of collection.

The National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank Network would create a national resource of umbilical cord stem cells, overhauling the current system of uncoordinated public and private banks, accrediting banks, setting standards and providing much greater coordination, resources and quality assurance.

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