NRL News

The many life-saving reasons why the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act should be reauthorized

by | Apr 14, 2021

By Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)

Editor’s note. These remarks were delivered today in the House of Representatives during debate on a bill to reauthorize the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005.

Madam Speaker, today the House of Representatives will vote to reauthorize the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act—a law I authored in 2005.

This was an original idea of mine 20 years ago. Joined by 70 cosponsors, I introduced it in 2001.   After five long years of hard work and numerous setbacks, my bill was finally enacted into law in 2005.

The new law created a nationwide umbilical cord blood stem cell program, designed to collect, derive, type, and freeze cord blood units for transplantation into patients to mitigate and to even cure serious disease. Pursuant to the law, it also provided stem cells for research. The new cord blood program was combined with an expanded bone marrow initiative, which was crafted over several years by our distinguished colleague, Congressman Bill Young.

I was the prime sponsor again when it was reauthorized in 2015.

Umbilical cord blood stem cells, obtained after the birth of a child, have proved highly efficacious in treating 70 diseases, including sickle-cell disease, lymphoma, and leukemia. And scientists are continuing to study and better understand the regenerative effects of cord blood cell therapies for other diseases and disabilities including autism. Bone marrow donations provide lifesaving transplants to treat diseases like blood cancer, sickle cell anemia, or inherited metabolic or immune system disorders.

The National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI) provides funding to public cord blood banks participating in the program to allow them to expand the national inventory of cord blood units available for transplant. These units are then listed on the registry by the “Be the Match” Program. The funds appropriated thus far have led to an important increase in the overall number of high-quality cord blood units available through the national registry, now totaling 111,000 NCBI units.[1]  Within the Be the Match registry, there are more than 800,000,000 worldwide.[2]

The Program registry allows patients and physicians to locate matching cord blood units, as well as adult donors for marrow and peripheral blood stem cells, when a family donor is not available. The Program is the world’s largest, most diverse donor registry, with more than 23 million volunteers.[3]  To date, the National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match (NMDP), through its operation of the Program, has facilitated more than 105,000 transplants.[4]  According to Be the Match, more than 40,000 patients[5] have received cord blood transplants. 

The reauthorization before us authorizes $23 million to be appropriated for fiscal year 2021 through fiscal year 2025. It also authorizes $30 million to be appropriated for fiscal years 2021 through 2025 for the bone marrow transplant program. This continues funding at the same levels authorized in the 2015 authorization bill.

Madam Speaker, each year nearly 4 million babies are born in America. In the past, virtually every placenta and umbilical cord was tossed as medical waste. Today, doctors have turned this medical waste into medical miracles.

Not only has God in His wisdom and goodness created a placenta and umbilical cord to nurture and protect the precious life of an unborn child, but now we know that another gift awaits us immediately after birth. Something very special is left behind—cord blood that is teeming with lifesaving stem cells. Indeed, it remains one of the best kept secrets in America that umbilical cord blood stem cells and adult stem cells in general are curing people of a myriad of terrible conditions and diseases—over 70 diseases in adults as well as in children.

The legislation that is before us will enable even more patients to receive the treatments that they so desperately need.

Categories: Legislation