View Full Version : Bill to spur collection of life-saving uc blood awaits action by Schwarzenegger

09-24-2010, 12:22 AM
Bill to spur collection of life-saving umbilical cord blood awaits action by Schwarzenegger

By Susan Ferriss
Published: Friday, Sep. 17, 2010

Parents-to-be have seen the ads: Privately bank your newborn's umbilical cord blood, for a price, and it might later provide lifesaving aid.

In fact, only a tiny fraction of cord blood is harvested at births, resulting in dire shortages nationwide of a substance that can help cure ? in patients of all ages ? more than 70 potentially lethal blood cancers and diseases.

A bill on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk is aimed at collecting an unprecedented public wealth of cord blood that could benefit Californians and the rest of the nation.

Collection, which is not opposed by anti-abortion groups, involves drawing blood from the placenta, through the umbilical cord, after a baby is delivered. Families currently pay up to $2,000 for the procedure and $100 a year for storage.

The bill would set up a system to let parents donate cord blood at no cost. It would be made available to them and to members of the public seeking matches.

Collection would be financed, in large part, by a $2 increase for certified birth certificates, which cost $14 now.

Supporters of the bill say California's sheer size and the ethnic diversity of the state's half million newborns each year are key to dramatically boosting cord-blood supplies.

This would aid more patients of various ethnic backgrounds, who could use transplants of the blood to fight leukemia, sickle cell anemia and other blood and immune disorders.

Right now, a Caucasian has a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of finding a cord-blood match from the nation's current supply.

African Americans and Asians have a 30 percent chance and Latinos a 40 percent chance, according to Philip Coelho, a Sacramento scientist and expert in blood storage and whose company, Synergenesis, develops technology to help find stem cell-based cures.

California ? 37 percent Latino, 13 percent Asian and almost 6 percent black ? also is home to the nation's largest population of multiracial people, who also face slimmer chances of finding matches.

Other states are starting to promote cord-blood collection, Coelho said. But to give patients of diverse ethnicities an equal chance at cord blood, he said, "California is indispensable."

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from La Ca?ada Flintridge and author of Assembly Bill 52, agrees.

"California has the most diverse blood supply in the world," he said. "If I can do this and save lives, then I will feel that I've done something in the Legislature."

Portantino developed a passion for his cause after a neighbor's 6-year-old son received a pioneering transplant that cured his leukemia after other treatment failed.

Portantino said he's already pushed his bill over one of its biggest hurdles. An overwhelming majority of state legislators voted for the bill, even though Republicans often reject fee increases as burdens on taxpayers.

No GOP member opposed the bill in the Assembly ? two didn't vote ? and only two GOP senators opposed it.

Portantino now has to persuade Schwarzenegger to sign the bill over opposition from his own state Department of Public Health and the Child Abuse Prevention Center, a California nonprofit group.

Child-abuse prevention programs benefit from a slice of birth certificate fees and fear it might be hard to justify a fee increase for that purpose later. It suggested, instead, a hike in $12 fees for death certificates to finance cord-blood collection.

State public health officials argue that all fee increases for vital records should be devoted to the improvement of storing and delivering those records.

A previous bill by Portantino in 2007 established, on paper, a state cord-blood collection program but provided no funding. The state Department of Public Health ? which is afflicted by budget cuts ? was put in charge.

The department was recently granted nearly $500,000 in federal funding, but the money has gone unused.

Portantino's bill would designate the University of California ? a leader in stem-cell research ? as the new authority.

The UC Davis Institute of Regenerative Cures is eager to help.

The Sacramento-based institute conducts stem-cell research, and would assist with screening collections.

Sacramento is one of the nation's most diverse areas, the institute's director, Jan Nolta, said in documents supporting more cord-blood collection.

"Two of every 10 babies born here are multiracial," Nolta wrote. "It is imperative to capture these diverse, life-saving blood units and to have them safely stored in searchable public banks."

California issues 1.5 million certified birth certificate copies a year ? not just new parents request them ? and the $2 fee hike would produce about $3 million a year.

Portantino said that after he became aware of cord blood's lifesaving power, he bought a collection kit and requested that his wife's doctor collect blood to donate after the birth of Portantino's second child.

"I had to pack it on ice myself and ship it to a private bank," he said.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/09/17/3036095/bill-to-spur-collection-of-life.html#ixzz10QQzLn00