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Umbilical Cord Blood Bill Proposed by MP

BBC News, January 7, 2008

In order to get doctors to offer parents the option of storing their baby's umbilical cord blood, an MP is set to launch a political bid.

A bill regarding the potentially life-saving technique will be presented to Parliament by Tory MP David Burrowes.

Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells. Many diseases can currently be treated using these cells, and with technological advances, many more will be treated in the future.

Since NHS provision is limited to only a handful of trusts, a host of private firms have begun offering the service.

Used to treat anyone who needs stem cells for a blood cell disorder, 2000 samples are taken by the NHS each year to supply the NHS Cord Blood Bank.

But matches have been difficult to find at times. Among those cases, patients in ethnic minority groups are most likely to not find a match.

Cord blood storage is often advertised as an insurance policy by private banks since the cells can be used in the future to treat illness. However the prices for private storage are as high as £1,500.

The government has stayed strong with its current stance since most scientists are still in the process of experimenting with these cells.

After sitting on a cross-party group which looked at the issue of stem cell therapy during a review of the Human Fertilization and Embryo Bill, Mr. Burrowes, who represents Enfield in London, said he had been persuaded to put forward the 10-minute rule bill.

Although under parliamentary rules a 10-minute bill cannot become law on its own, the primary aim of his bill is to require doctors to inform parents of the technique.

With the embryo bill being due back before the House of Commons in the future, Burrowes is hoping the debate will raise awareness and lead to it being incorporated into the forthcoming bill, or perhaps a different one.

He said: "I want to stop the waste of life-saving cord blood and open up the opportunities for treatment of diseases and ethical stem cell research."

The Anthony Nolan Trust, the Leukemia Society, as well as several other patient groups and experts are supporting Burrowes.

Colin McGuckin, professor of regenerative medicine at Newcastle University, said: "Cord blood has already cured around 10,000 people, but despite this much of the UK stem cell funding goes towards other types of stem cells."

The bill is “broadly” supported by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

But a spokesman added: "The RCOG recommends that an appropriately trained and skilled technician is present to collect the cord blood so that the obstetrician and midwife are focused on the care of the mother immediately after the birth."

The government stated that the policy would be kept under review, but that they had no current plans to change their stance.


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