Ethical stem cell treatments advance in California

Ethical stem cell treatments advance in California


Two bills regarding the use of umbilical cord blood for medical treatment and research purposes were recently signed into law in California.  The companion bills, supported by the California Catholic Conference, would fund the research and collection of blood from umbilical cords that are often discarded after birth.

AB-34 was introduced by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino in honor of his young neighbor who was diagnosed with leukemia several years ago.  After an experimental transplant of umbilical cord blood, all traces of her leukemia disappeared.

Umbilical cord blood has been found to fight over 70 blood disorders by providing adaptable stem cells.  While bone marrow is often used, it requires more genetic matching to the patient than cord blood.

California Catholic Conference spokeswoman, Carol Hogan told California Catholic Daily, “Only 200-300 cord blood tissue types need to be gathered and stored to match virtually any recipient who would need this type of therapy.” “With umbilical blood you don’t need a one-to-one match.” Hogan said finding an umbilical blood donor is easier than finding a compatible organ donor, because fewer genetic markers are involved.

When Portantino saw that the transplant could save lives, he made two vows:  first, if his wife ever gave birth again, he would donate blood from the umbilical cord, and second, if he ever had the authority, he would push to expand cord-blood storage.

The bill will require the creation of the Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program and will create a special fund for federal money and donations to public cord blood banks.

Portantino's goal is to create a genetically diverse supply of cord blood in California to improve the prospects for thousands of Americans who die each year while waiting for a suitable blood match.

AB-34’s companion bill SB-962, which supports the research of umbilical cord blood research, will also take steps to inform mothers about options for donating cord blood, California Catholic Daily reports.

The new laws have drawn praise from the California Catholic Conference.  “The Catholic Conference strongly opposes harvesting stem cells from embryos, but we supported AB-34 and SB-962 because using umbilical cord cells poses no danger to human life,” stated spokeswoman Carol Hogan.

The Conference is in agreement with the idea of cord blood banking because so many have been proven to benefit from it.

In contrast, not a single known human ailment has been successfully treated with stem cells derived from the destruction of human embryos.

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