WASHINGTON – The Bush administration released a statement detailing their reaction to the House's decision on stem cells.
The Administration strongly supports House passage of H.R. 2520, which would facilitate the use of umbilical-cord-blood stem cells in biomedical research and in the treatment of disease. Cord-blood stem cells, collected from the placenta and umbilical cord after birth without doing harm to mother or child, have been used in the treatment of thousands of patients suffering from more than 60 different diseases, including leukemia, Fanconi anemia, sickle cell disease, and thalassemia. Researchers also believe cord-blood stem cells may have the capacity to be differentiated into other cell types, making them useful in the exploration of ethical stem cell therapies for regenerative medicine. H.R. 2520 would increase the publicly available inventory of cord-blood stem cells by enabling the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to contract with cord-blood banks to assist them in the collection and maintenance of 150,000 cord-blood stem cell units. This would make matched cells available to treat more than 90 percent of patients in need. The bill would also link all participating cord-blood banks to a search network operated under contract with HHS, allowing physicians to search for matches for their patients quickly and effectively in one place. The bill also would reauthorize a similar program already in place for aiding the use of adult bone marrow in medical care. There is now $19 million available to implement the Cord Blood Cell Bank program; the Administration will work with the Congress to evaluate future spending requirements for these activities. The bill is also consistent with the recommendation from the National Academy of Science to create a National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank program.
The Administration also applauds the bill's effort to facilitate research into the potential of cord-blood stem cells to advance regenerative medicine in an ethical way. Some research indicates that cord blood cells may have the ability to be differentiated into other cell types, in ways similar to embryonic stem cells, and so present similar potential uses but without raising the ethical problems involved in the intentional destruction of human embryos. The Administration encourages efforts to seek ethical ways to pursue stem cell research, and believes that - with the appropriate combination of responsible policies and innovative scientific techniques - this field of research can advance without violating important ethical boundaries. H.R. 2520 is an important step in that direction.