Supporters of a national umbilical-cord donor blood program have hailed today's establishment of a donor databank.
The legislation, signed by President Bush, provides $79 million in federal funds to increase the number of cord-blood units available for matches. The legislation also reauthorizes the existing national bone-marrow registry of unrelated adult volunteer donors.
Like bone marrow, umbilical-cord blood is a rich source of blood-forming cells and can be used to help patients with diseases like leukemia and anemia. But unlike bone-marrow transplants, an exact tissue-type match is not nedessary, making umbilical-cord blood practical for people with uncommon tissue types, such as certain minority and ethnic groups.
Dr. Jeffrey Chell, chief executive officer of the National Marrow Donor Program, said his organization considers the signing historic.
"For the first time, it provides significant federal funding for cord-blood banks," he said. "It increases the number of donors as well as the ethnic diversity of the entrants in the registry."
There are two types of cord-blood banks: private and public. With the former, parents pay to store their babies' cord blood for varying periods of time, in the event that their child needs it. However, most of the diseases cured by bone-marrow and cord-blood transplants are rare. Public banks allow for a national registry that doctors can search to find matches.
Dr. Cladd Stevens, medical director of the New York Blood Center's Cord Blood Program, said her organization has been working for three years to get the legislation passed and signed.
"It's a very good day," Stevens said. "It's really such good news to have something like this happen. It should help a lot of people."